present disc offers a colorful sampling of sonatas from
the "golden age" with examples by three of
its most illustrious exponents: Prokofiev's Second Sonata
and Medtner's Sonata Reminiscenza, both written in the
years surrounding the First World War and the Bolshevik
uprising; and Shostakovich's Second Sonata, dating from
the period of the Second World War. Different as these
three works are from one another, the Beethoven legacy
remains an inevitable part of their formal and dramatic
design. The preference for terse motifs in the Medtner
and Shostakovich sonatas can also be traced to Beethoven.
As with much Russian music of the 19th and 20th Centuries,
one also finds in these works a certain tension between
the respect for conformity to the classical models and
the fierce need for independence, the latter borne of
Russia's geographic isolation and strong national identity.
Each of the three
sonatas is very much a product of its time and place.
The environment of political and artistic turmoil in
the early part of the 20th Century elicited a very different
response from Prokofiev, a precocious conservatory student
brazenly challenging textbook conventions, as compared
to Medtner, a well-established musical reactionary whose
sonata is laced with reveries of the past. Shostakovich's
sonata, on the other hand, written at the height of
his career, serves as both a personal tribute to the
loss of a friend and a profound reflection on a nation
recovering from a genocidal occupation.