On Prokofiev’s sixth sonata

this is the third installment of the hackneyed devices series that chronicles my fall 2017 solo Prokofiev tour. hope you enjoy!

The Sixth Sonata, the first in the “War Sonatas” trilogy, is a significant departure from the Second Sonata we heard earlier: gone are the lush colors and deference to tonality; in their place are jagged rhythms, unapologetic dissonance, and an eerie musical irony in the lyrical passages amidst the piece’s electric fury. The harsh battalion imagery of the Sixth Sonata is especially fascinating, for the Nazis had not yet invaded the Soviet Union when Prokofiev set to work on this piece. Prokofiev was instead engulfed by personal turmoil–his friend, Vsevolod Meyerhold, had commissioned an opera, then disappeared (code for “was arrested and executed”)–while simultaneously commissioned to write a celebratory cantata for Stalin’s 60th birthday. In some ways, then, this sonata can be interpreted as a political statement, an overt critique of a brutally oppressive regime.

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