PROKOFIEV: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Sonata in D Major (Antoni Wit/ Michael Ponder/ Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Tedi Papavrami) (Naxos: 8.553494)
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Prokofiev wrote just two violin concertos, though 20 years were to separate their composition.
By the time he composed the first concerto, he had already divided critical opinion, the second piano concerto having created a major scandal, with most critics vehement in their condemnation of this music which looked so much towards the future. Then came the violent ballet scores which even rival Stravinsky's pagan \The Rite of Spring".
In this scenario, and amidst in the bloody revolution which brought the communists to power in Russia, the First Violin Concerto must have come as something of a surprise, with the violin floating upwards like a bird ascending, and some of the most gorgeous and rhapsodic music composed during the first quarter of the 20th century. It is true that the central movement has an aggressive and abrasive atmosphere, but the whole work was to end in tranquillity, and his mastery of the violin concerto would have led the listeners to believe that there would have been another work soon to follow.
In fact it was 20 years later before he once again returned this medium, and it was a commission from Robert Soetans, the French violinist, that was to be the stimulus. Opinions are divided as to how technically brilliant Prokofiev considered Soetans, but he certainly concentrated on the lyrical aspects of the instrument, the broad melodic line for unaccompanied solo violin, which opens the first movement, setting the tone for the whole work. It is redolent with typical Prokofiev melodies, the slow movement unashamedly beautiful, the solo instrument weaving imaginative figurations over the orchestral accompaniment.
He could not, however, resist one of his crackling and spiky movements to bring the work to a conclusion. The disc is completed by one of Prokofiev's finest works, the solo sonata for violin, in which he exploits every facet of the tonal possibilities of the instrument. The soloist is the young virtuoso Albanian, Tedi Papavrami, regarded as one of the most outstanding prospects to have emerged in recent years.
The recording was made in Poland in January 1996, with the English producer, Michael Ponder, in charge of the sessions .