From Valentina: Sonata #7, one of so called “war” sonatas, written mostly in 1942 , premiered in January 1943 by Richter.
A long bit of pre-history to how this sonata came along: Prokofiev-the-human was not exactly a kind of person you would dream of to be your best friend As a kid studying in conservatory he was both nerdy and arrogant — he never missed an opportunity flaunt his formidable talents in front of his older classmates ( he was by far the youngest in his class), yet he was so jealous of his fellow composers that he couldn’t even hide his bile, not even when he wrote and re-wrote and re-edited (FOR POSTERITY! In his own admission ) his school-days diary to make himself look really good and smart….In fact , he was always smart and thought himself even smarter. How many underage musical school students do you, dear reader, know — who trade their own stocks and bonds in a spare time from studying Beethoven Sonatas? Yes, me neither… Anyway, he thought he will always outsmart everybody and for a while he was lucky. He escaped newly-hatched SovietRussia just before the iron curtain closed, enjoying admiration of the West as a young brilliant composer from red Russia, hailed by critics as “an apostle of Bolshevism” . He commuted between trendy circles of Paris and US with ease while his compatriots were being enslaved and starved . He got himself a gorgeous trophy foreign wife, drove fast cars ,gambled a lot , made visits to Russia where he was feted as a celebrity ,incurred a lot of debts…. When time came to pay those debts he though he can once again outsmart everybody, by pulling a magic trick out of his fashionable hat — by denouncing capitalist West and moving back to Mother Russia, safely out of reach of creditors. He did move — and heard a clicking noise of mousetrap closing upon him. For the first time in his life he lost, he got caught – with no escape in sight. From a visiting globe-trotting celebrity he was turned overnight into a humble public servant, required to compose what and when the Communist party would order him. No more Romeos and Juliettes , now the music had to be about workers of factories and collective farms, or — like he was made to write just before this Sonata — a panegyric oratorio wishing happy birthday to Stalin…. Prokofiev was not interested in history or politics and his music never before reflected on sufferings of millions or entire nations ( like Shostakovich or Mussorgsky did ), he was always writing about himself and HIS feelings. We can’t blame him for this, ok? It is enough to say that this music reflects mortal anxiety and fear that he and countless others felt in those years. The music of Allegro Inquieto is about this anxiety verging on hysterics, when you feel that something should be done, something MUST be done but you are powerless to do anything. Like a trapped animal that can’t comprehend what awaits it, keeps hitting the walls or running around in its cage, aimlessly. And then , in the second — contrasting – theme, stupor and reverie of most pitiful kind, passivity and pacifism of dying. One, only ONE thing , short 4 notes motive — that stands apart through this entire movement . Tah-tah-tah-Daah. A triplet of 8th notes and a quarter, repeated over and over , low and high, loud and quiet. This is the SAME motive that traces its genealogy from this sonata back to Beethoven Appasionata and from there to Fifth Symphony famous theme, This rhythm stands in Morse code for a letter V , V is for VICTORY, the “secret” code known for what it meant even during radio broadcasts during the war. This V and 100s times it repeats is he only ray of hope in the vast abyss this movement is.