I was talking with a good friend recently about a Prokofiev piano piece called "Suggestion Diabolique." I had sent him a link to a performance I thought was incredibly vulgar, messy, and unnecessarily violent. I had thought it would get a laugh, but started a very interesting exchange. I mentioned that my favorite performance of this piece was by Prokofiev himself, and sent a link to that as well. He agreed and wondered aloud - why don't more people play Prokofiev as Prokofiev would? This got me thinking. Invariably, pianists - especially students and amateurs - will think of Prokofiev's music as bombastic, violent, sharp - metallic, and will play it that way. Offensive, ugly sounds shoot out of the piano like laser beams, and for some reason, excite audiences. His fast movements are usually played way too fast (for example, the third movement of his 7th piano sonata) and the slow movements are played in a cold, gray manner devoid of colors and emotion. Why? How has Prokofiev's piano music taken on this warped mask which completely covers and distorts the real emotions behind his music?

Prokofiev was alive in a time when records were being made, and he made several recordings of his own music, as well as music of other composers. He enjoyed beautiful melodies and different colors at the piano (he learned and played music by Nikolai Medtner, for example.) He was a very interesting and compelling pianist, in some cases the complete opposite of the way some pianists play his music. So, take a moment. Pianists, listen carefully. Students, take note. Once you've experienced this wonderful, powerful, and in this piece, spooky playing, I hope it will give you a new perspective on this composer.

Next, Rachmaninoff.

AuthorChad R. Bowles