In Tune. Prokofiev 5 Vol.

May 1996

Subtlety in Prokofiev

Prokofiev: Sonata No.9 + 2 Sonatinas, Toccata, Sarcasms, etc.
Oleg Marshev – piano / Danacord DACOCD 395 / DDD

Oleg Marshev’s complete Prokofiev solo music offers something special to the serious collector. Marshev’s a very fine pianist indeed, and has a drawer full of prizes to prove it. But beyond that, his latest release offers an especially fine survey of Prokofiev’s piano accomplishments: very early (2 Pieces for Children), to very late works (the summer-molded Sonata No.9, Op.103). There are examples of his best blazing fireworks (4 Etudes, Op. 2; the five playful Sarcasms, Op. 17, and the fierce Toccata, Op. 11), as well as his genteel side – the two Sonatinas, Op.54.

Except for the Toccata, none of these works has been gathered into such a collection. Within Marshev’s grab bag lie many of the most deserving pieces, especially the two Sonatinas from 1932. Those are colorful and the Ninth Sonata is “white” in its neoclassical simplicity. Marshev can pound away when Prokofiev slips into his percussive style – which includes most of the spiky Sarcasms, But he also brings the lighter works a grace that one expects for 18th Century music.

What’s especially interesting is his performance of the Toccata. Rather than play it for powerhouse effect – as Horowitz did – or emphasize the counterpoint (most of Toccata is fuga!), Marshev reaches down into depths of the score and comes up with something that sounds almost mystical – even a little demonic. That’s partly a matter of underplaying the soft dynamics and tempo, saving up for the final blast of the coda. Naturally, there’s more to it than just that, but no matter. Marshev has a fresh and revealing concept of the Toccata that works, as is typical of this entire program. Danacord, as usual, provides excellent, realistic piano sonics which places the listener at the keyboard – rather than out in the concert hall. Recommended.