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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Four Etudes, Op. 2 [11:01]
Four Pieces, Op. 3 [5:10]
Four Pieces, Op. 32 [10:14]
Sonata No. 10 in E minor, Op. 137 (fragment) [1:08]
Two Sonatinas, Op. 54 [19:34]
Sonata No. 5 in C, Op. 135 (revised 1952-3) [15:38]
DongKyu Kim, piano
rec. 19-20 April 2012, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK
NAXOS 8.572826 [62:45]

I’d wager there is room for this album in any Prokofiev collection. The four etudes, Op 2, and four pieces, Op 3, are products of the teenage composer, and recorded by almost nobody, which can also be said of the sonatinas and a fragmentary sketch to the unfinished tenth sonata. Most sonata cycles (Raekallio, McDermott) don’t include these pieces, so unless you have traversals of the complete piano music by Oleg Marshev or Boris Berman, this CD will fill a gap.
The early pieces are not necessarily essential, but they do show how quickly and eagerly young Prokofiev began defying his teachers and charging toward his adult style. The etudes are hard-charging affairs with rhythmic punch; the more laid-back but still harmonically spicy Pieces are either given descriptive names like “Tale” and “Jest” or dance titles like “Gavotte”.
Ironically, the last music he ever wrote - the fragment of a planned tenth piano sonata - is more old-fashioned: halfway through we meet the second melody, a plaintive, expansive lyric which seems to end with its fingers outstretched. The two sonatinas are fully mature works from the early 1930s, which makes their neglect peculiar. Like Beethoven’s mid-period “sonatinas” (sonatas 19 and 20), they’re less than ten minutes each and scaled down but worthy of attention; the E minor sonatina has a dark lyricism that I enjoyed.
Kim’s recital ends with the Sonata No. 5, but in its very late revised edition, with a deceptive neoclassical simplicity, clarity, and dark undertone that brings to mind the Seventh Symphony. His playing throughout is impressive: the technical demands are handled with aplomb (and in many of these works, the demands are considerable), and while it’s easy to imagine a more poetic touch in some parts of the sonata, there’s certainly nothing mechanical or rote about anything here. This is a very useful supplement to anyone’s Prokofiev collection, and the fact that it’s so well-played and well-recorded makes it all the more valuable.
Brian Reinhart