The Classical Gilbert Podcast - Prokofiev - Piano Sonata no. 7 in B-flat major "Stalingrad", Op. 83


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Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7 in B♭ major, Op. 83 ("Stalingrad") is the second of the Three War Sonatas. It was first performed in 1943 in Moscow by Sviatoslav Richter. In 1939 Prokofiev's close friend and professional associate, Vsevolod Meyerhold, was arrested by Stalin's secret police just before he was due to rehearse Prokofiev's new opera Semyon Kotko; he was shot in 1940, and the brutal murder of his wife followed closely. Only months later, Prokofiev was 'invited' to compose Zdravitsa (literally translated 'Cheers!', but more often given the English title Hail to Stalin) to celebrate Joseph Stalin's 60th birthday. Later that year, Prokofiev started composing his sonatas no. 6. 7, and 8. These sonatas contain some of Prokofiev's most dissonant music for the piano. Biographer Daniel Jaffé has argued that Prokofiev, "having forced himself to compose a cheerful evocation of the nirvana Stalin wanted everyone to believe he had created" (i.e. in Zdravitsa) then subsequently, in these three sonatas, "expressed his true feelings". It was therefore ironic (most especially given the musical allusion that Prokofiev made to 'sadness' in the central movement) that Sonata no. 7 received a Stalin Prize (Second Class).

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