Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Prokofiev, Music for Violin and Piano, Jameson Cooper & Ketevan Badridze

The year 2016 marks Prokofiev's 125th birth anniversary. There are good things coming out to mark the occasion. One of the best is also the inaugural release of a new label, Afinat (1601). It is violinist Jameson Cooper and pianist Ketevan Badridze playing Music for Violin and Piano, which includes Prokofiev's two Violin Sonatas plus the somewhat more rare "Five Melodies, Op. 35bis."

The sonatas comprise landmark classics in modern repertoire, with some stiff competition in recordings from the likes of Isaac Stern and Joseph Szigeti. Both works are marvels of Prokofiev's bitter-sweet melodic and harmonic singularity, unforgettable and briskly challenging works. Cooper and Badridze give us impassioned readings that fall somewhere between the brusque Szigeti reading and more rhapsodic ones. Cooper is a member of the notable Euclid Quartet;  Badridze is part of the Toradze Piano Studio. This is their first venture together and it is a most auspicious beginning.

They bring an intimate ease and dedicated familiarity to the sonatas that show a lively talent, surely. The passage of time between the premiere of these long ago and the contemporary world we are now in gives us the feeling of meeting again a few old friends, more seasoned with time but as engaging as ever. By now this music and its poignant density is very much a part of what has "been in the air" to the point that Cooper and Badridze make the music flow with a natural flourish that 75 years ago seemed perhaps next-to-impossible. Cooper sings and Badridze gives the music drive in what are indeed two wonderful readings, among the very best.

The addition of the "Five Melodies" is very welcome. These are a fresh and worthy prelude to the sonatas, quite lovely and very well played.

So begins the existence of Afinat Records and the Cooper-Badridze duo. This is essential listening for any Prokofiev-modern aficionado. It is one of the most moving and accomplished performances of the Sonatas and in the end really quite thrilling!

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