Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Sergei Prokofiev composed his last work for violin in 1947, the Sonata for Solo or Unison Violins, Op. 115. This work stands apart from Prokofiev’s other works because it serves the dual purpose of both solo or unison sonata, and is the least performed or recorded work among the violin repertoire of Prokofiev. This work was written exactly at the point in Soviet history when its government launched official attacks on many composers including Prokofiev, and was never performed during Prokofiev’s lifetime. Nevertheless, the work represents an important point in Prokofiev’s career, during the final stages of his Soviet period, when Prokofiev tried to appeal musically to the masses, but was instead blacklisted. Chapter 1 will contain biographical information and will discuss Prokofiev in historical context. In Chapter 2, Prokofiev’s varying compositional periods will be defined and explored, the issue of politics will be discussed, and will include a discussion of how Prokofiev was believed to be influenced by the state of affairs in the Soviet Union. It will also be pointed out how Prokofiev’s permanent relocation to the Soviet Union in 1935 had great implications for his career and personal life. Chapter 3 delves deeper into the Solo Sonata, its history and performance practice, as well as specific characteristics of Prokofiev’s late style, including his treatment of melody, lyricism, rhythm and form. The Solo Sonata proves to be an excellent example of Prokofiev’s late compositional style, which strove for a more direct and simple musical language. Finally, Chapter 4 will contain a detailed theoretical analysis and suggestions for performers. More specifically, it will show how Prokofiev used Classical forms in the Sonata and the methods he used to expand or manipulate these traditional boundaries. In addition, the harmonic analysis will expose chromatic displacement when used, as well as a varied and interesting manipulation of hypermeter, and how this can be interpreted in performance. The Sonata is distinctive from other violin sonatas in the repertoire not only because it reflects an intriguing and unique performance practice in its double purpose as a unison or solo piece, but also because it was composed in perhaps the most tumultuous period of both Prokofiev’s career and the history of Soviet music. In conclusion, the paper is intended to present and untangle the array of opinions regarding Prokofiev’s Soviet period, in order to better understand what motivated him to write the Sonata for Solo or Unison Violins, and why he never heard it performed during his lifetime.
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Steinhauser, Joanna, "A historical analysis and performer's guide to Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Solo or Unison Violins, Op.115" (2009). LSU Major Papers. 42.