As mentioned in previous analysis posts, part of analysis is understanding the context of the composer and their piece. I’ll be starting with a brief overview on Prokofiev and then reviewing the entirety of the Op. 94 before finally isolating the Andantino movement.
Sergei Prokofiev: Restrictions in Russia
Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer who was alive (1891-1953) during the time of the Soviet Union. This is significant because of the control the government had over artists, especially during Stalin’s life. Prokofiev and Shostakovich, his contemporary, had targets on their backs because they were giants – having international success (Prokofiev spent a lot of time touring outside of Russia). Shostakovich was made to be an example: in 1934 his opera, Lady Macbeth, premiered and the general reaction had been positive… that is until Stalin had gone to the opera in 1936, in which he openly ridiculed Lady Macbeth. Shortly after this an anonymous article “Muddle Instead of Music” was published giving the opera a scathing review (it’s also worth noting Lady Macbeth was banned in the Soviet Union until just several years after Stalin’s death). After this the limitations placed on composers were unclear, to say the least; there were many shades of gray, all subject to the opinion of Stalin, and the price to pay for pushing the envelope was step (if not death, exile, or a whole other range of fear tactics and harassment). Generally speaking music that underwent “Russification” followed the principles of this new term for enforcement ‘Socialist Realism’: presented Russia as an prosperous and idealistic nation, including folk songs that reinforced this Russian nationalism, and finally music following classical traditions (the atonality and serialism in other parts of the world at the time was definitely NOT in line with “Russification”).
Prokofiev a composer, pianist and conductor did his best to adhere to these murky principles. A notable work he was asked to compose – in an act of redemption – was Zdravitsa for Stalin’s 60th birthday – here the principles of Socialist Realism are clearly followed: the text was already chosen for him, he chose to set it starting and ending in a Major key, and having a nostalgic quality that gave this sense of Russian pride. Other notable works include Lieutenant Kije (op. 60) a suite for orchestra; Romeo and Juliet Overture (op. 64), and (very familiar for orchestral flutists) Peter and the Wolf (op. 67) a children’s tale for narrator and orchestra.
Sonata in D Major (op. 94)
In 1943 Prokofiev finished his Sonata for flute (op. 94); this piece was written in the Classical style which is already setting it to be inline with “Russification”. This piece was written while Prokofiev was also working with Ivan the Terrible; and it was first performed by flutist, Nikolai Khaikorsky in 1943.
In 1944 Prokofiev revisited the work for violin – this would later be published as Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (op. 94bis).
There are 4 movements:
- Andantino (QN=80) starts and ends in D Major.
- Scherzo (dotted QN=69) opens with ambiguous tonality (am-CM-dm-FM); ends on an am chord.
- Andante (QN=50) starts briefly in FM before exploring other keys; ends with FM.
- Allegro con brion (QN=112) starts and ends in DM.
Given the understanding over the overall work, and the restrictions Prokofiev had we can begin to look through the first movement:
I. Andantino (QN=80)
For those familiar with musical forms, true to the piece’s name, this first movement is in sonata form. Here’s the breakdown:
The black represents the pillars – sometimes Sonata form has an Introduction (not the case here); there will ALWAYS be an exposition, development and recapitulation (pay very close attention to the repeats they are important to the form); and sometimes there is a coda (which there is in op. 94).
The green represents cadences. HC = half cadence; PAC = perfect authentic cadence; IAC = inauthentic cadence. The exact cadences in this diagram are not as important as the cadence’s function… basically is it stable or unstable?
Finally, the purple represents tonality or tonal areas. The exposition begins in the tonic or home key, by the secondary theme there is a new key (usually related to the home key) that will be explored. The development continues off the end of the exposition somewhat stable, but then can do an array of things to ‘develop’ melody and harmony such as use sequences, variations, toncizing other tonal areas, or fragment previous material. Finally, the recapitulation works very similarly to the exposition (since it is recapping that material) however everything is now in the tonic/home key. The coda ends up a tag at the end, extending the material, in this case it still ends in D Major to get that nostalgic and classical tradition feel that would be expected of Prokofiev by Social Realists/the government.
The exposition in this first movement ends before rehearsal 4 (in the Schirmer 1965 revised edition) or measure 40. One easy visual cue to tell that the exposition ends and the development has started is the repeat – knowing this saves so much time.
The primary theme starts in D Major ending with a PAC in measure 8. The transition is still tonicizing the home key, but with added chromaticism; there isn’t a formal HC as seen in the template above, but the instability of the D in the flute against an F-natural (the lowered 3rd) and in an inversion – with the F being underneath the D – has the same effect that a HC would in measure 20.
The secondary theme starts in measure 21 introduces a new rhythmic motive (dotted eighth sixteenth); the new key is not clear, but Prokofiev brings out the E – G# – B repeatedly throughout this new theme despite never fully tonicizing it. Then, in measure 30 (or rehearsal 3) the unstable tonality remains the same, but Prokofiev expands on the secondary theme with rhythmic variance with the groups of 6 as well as the contrasting longer durations (quarter and half notes).
The development spans from rehearsal 4 to 8 (or measure 41-87 and features the infamous climax of the piece that utilizes the extreme high register of the flute (D7).
This section starts without any piano, and allows the flute to show off their full low register with a short, articulate sounds. The new variance in the rhythm are the driving sixteenth triplets placed on the second half of the beat – Prokofiev continues to use this motive throughout this section to drive forward. At rehearsal 5 (measure 51) there is a transposed return of the opening theme – down a half step, starting on G#. With quotes from the closing and secondary themes before, yet again, returning to the opening theme now an augmented fourth (or a tritone) above the original pitch. And then seemingly out of nowhere, Prokofiev abruptly changes the key signature, measures 64-69. He leans into the instability with a quick time signature change from 4/4 to 2/4 and back to 4/4. In measure 74, Prokofiev gives the flute 2 groups of 5 to launch into the climax combining the transition theme from the exposition with the driving triplets; emphasizing the virtuosic arpeggios up to the D7 by repeating them 5 times.
The recapitulation spans from rehearsal 8 to 4 after reh. 10 (or measure 88 to 107). The stability of D Major is alluded to one measure before with the piano lead in and the repeated A5s in the flute. There is a PAC in 85, which quickly jumps into the transition where he (like before) plays with chromaticism but stays in the home key of D Major; with a pedal D in measure 91 that acts as a PAC – even though it is technically not when looking at the piano score, the restfulness before the next entrance functions in a similar manner. The secondary theme – which maintains the rhythm of the dotted eighth sixteenth – is now set in the home key, starting on the 5th (A5); this theme ends with an IAC (because the flute is on the 5th and note the root, D) with is still relatively restful, but alluding to something more which is fitting because it is followed by a fermata where the flute has a moment to rest while the piano maintains a pedal A2. The closing theme in the recap looks very similar to the secondary theme of the exposition with the biggest difference being the ending – which is on D to create a relatively conclusive ending – PAC.
Sometimes, but not always, the development and recapitulation are repeated (they are ALWAYS repeated together, however sometimes for brevity or with the addition of a coda, this second repeat is nixed.
Finally, the coda spans measure 108 to the end. For the first time in the work, Prokofiev starts the flute on the 3rd (F#) this is significant because the 3rd determines the quality, and in this case he is playing around with the quality of a D7 against a b-flat minor arpeggio; as well as varying inversions (measures 110-111). At the end, measure 115, Prokofiev does a brief return to that seemingly out of place B-flat major from the development with the perfect fourth of the F to the B-flat, a transposed version of the opening motive; before ending securely in D Major as would be expected of him within the Classical tradition.
Given the context of when Prokofiev wrote this piece and life/restrictions in the Soviet Union, it is clear that some boundaries where being pushed. At pivotal points, Prokofiev follows Classical traditions; but tonally and rhythmically (end with register to a point – the contrasting low to high in the development) he is exploring new terrain that somehow fits into the shades of grey within Socialist Realism.
Academia aside, this is beautiful flute piece to play and study – I look forward to working on this for my final Masters recital. Let me know your thoughts about this first movement in the comments.