Monday, June 14, 2010

At Age 19, My Love For Prokoviev

At nineteen, I asked my teacher, John Hasson, whom I have written about in a previous blog, if it were possible to work on a Prokoviev piano sonata. I remember his looking at me for a moment, then asking "do you know what you'll be getting into?" I had an instant feeling that he did not put much faith in my attaining any palpable success in such a venture at that time in my development.
After a short period of time, probably a few weeks, I asked him again- this time he asked (probably with a sigh of some resignation at my persistence!), "which sonata did you have in mind?"
I said, without hesitation, "the seventh," to which he replied, as I recall, "you must have heard the Horowitz recording."
Well, he had nailed me in his supposition - I was totally enthralled and in total love with the magnificent recording by Horowitz, which I must have listened to several times per week at that time - I was simply mesmerized by both the music and the playing. It, of course, was one of the three so-called "war sonatas" that Prokofiev had written in Russia during the Second World War, and, for me, the most powerful of the three.
Hasson gave in, quite reluctantly; and so I started work on the mammoth score.
It took about a year to learn, and I became an instant observer of the uniqueness of Prokoviev's view of the piano (translation: at times, I was considering dropping the entire project due to the Brobdingnagian difficulties in both the first and third movements).
I DID prevail, however, and performed it once, and only once, in public, as I then realized ( and probably grudgingly) and admitted to myself how much time it had taken me to learn it, and was in some fear as to how much Mr. Prokoviev had detracted me from the learning of other pieces in the repertoire during a most formative period in my development.
At any rate, it was an unforgettable experience, which included a realization on my part that I was no Horowitz, and that there is some music that should be given over to those anointed with that power attendant with the word 'greatness.'

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