Hyperion Records

Five Melodies, Op 35bis
composed in 1920 as Five Songs without Words for the soprano Nina Koshetz; transcribed for violin and piano with the assistance of Pawel Kochanski in July 1925

'Prokofiev: Symphony No 1 & Violin Concerto No 2' (CKD219)
Prokofiev: Symphony No 1 & Violin Concerto No 2
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'Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas' (CDA67514)
Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas
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No 1: Andante
No 2: Lento, ma non troppo
No 3: Animato, ma non allegro
No 4: Allegretto leggero e scherzando
No 5: Andante non troppo

Five Melodies, Op 35bis
In 1915, while he was beginning to compose his First Violin Concerto, Prokofiev heard the violinist Paul (Paweł) Kochański perform Szymanowski’s pioneering Mythes with the composer at the piano. This stirred the composer’s creative imagination, and he soon sought Kochański’s collaboration in completing the concerto. In all his subsequent major violin works, Prokofiev was to work closely with several distinguished violinists: Robert Soetens for the Violin Concerto No 2, and David Oistrakh for the two violin sonatas.

Prokofiev turned to Kochański again when transcribing his Five Songs without Words, Op 35, for violin and piano. He originally composed these late in 1920 for Nina Koshetz, the larger-than-life Russian mezzo-soprano. Prokofiev had been touring California at the time, and appears to have been inspired by the state’s natural beauty: before completing the fifth and final song he noted in his diary how he admired ‘the ocean, which at sunset shimmered with the most beautiful colours’. In Paris a little over four years later, Prokofiev was impressed by a recital by the Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti, and considered writing a series of small violin pieces as ‘Songs without Words’. Another violinist, Cecilia Hansen, wife of one of his pianist friends from his St Petersburg Conservatory years, then demonstrated to Prokofiev that the second of the Songs without Words ‘went beautifully’ on violin. Nevertheless, Prokofiev entrusted the transcription of all five vocalises ‘not with the naïve Cecilia but with Kochański, whose skills in this respect are fabulous’. In July 1925, accordingly, Prokofiev visited Kochański at his home in Paris, and in just two intensive sessions of a few hours’ duration they transcribed all five songs for violin. The result, if anything, exceeds in beauty and expression the original vocalises. Prokofiev dedicated the second piece to Hansen, and the fifth piece to Szigeti, dedicating the rest of the cycle to Kochański.

from notes by Daniel Jaffé © 2014

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