If some beneficent genie were to grant me the ability to play any three sonatas of my choosing, the sixth sonata by Prokofiev would have to be one of the three. The first of Prokofiev’s three “War Sonatas”, the 6th was composed in 1939-1940, and given its first performance on April 8, 1940 with the composer at the piano. I heard it for the first time in 1965, in a recital by Van Cliburn, who later released it – together with the sonata by Samuel Barber – on an RCA record appropriately titled “Two 20th-Century Masterpieces”. In the liner notes to that album, Edward Jablonski writes, “One of his most majestic compositions, [the Sixth] is typically Prokofievian in the grandeur of the first movement, the wit of the second, the wistful beauty of the third and the propulsive drive of the finale.”
The pianist in this recording is Boris Feiner, whom we met earlier this month in a recording of Debussy’s “Pour le Piano”. In an unusual co-mingling of performances, Mr. Feiner elected to upload video of the first two movements from a recital in Bad Bergzabern, Germany on September 29, 2006, and the third and fourth from a recital five days earlier, in Rheinsberg.