Two of the great violin/piano sonatas of the 20th century, Debussy’s g minor Sonata and Prokofiev’s D major Sonata, were written in the mid part of WWI and WWII respectively. How artists react to the world around them or indeed how they ignore it in times of chaos has long been of interest to audiences. Some immerse themselves in the sorrow that they experience while others search for an escape in their art. Mozart wrote his last three symphonies, works full of hope and joy at a time when there was much tragedy in his personal life.
Musical introspection contrasts with sounds of dislocation in equal parts in Debussy’s 1917 work, his last completed composition. Folkloric traces and hints of the music of itinerant gypsies permeate this perfect little gem. This is music that only an innovator could conjure and David Saffir and Chris Cartner took the listener into Debussy’s sound world – a place of acceptance and at times, great sadness and their playing of the rapid figurations in all the movements was a delight.
Prokofiev’s Sonata (1943) starts with an intriguing little theme which is quickly submerged with deliberate intense ‘madnesses’. The theme wants to assert itself again and again. Is it a melody of hope – a desire for normality to return to Russia?
Dazzling playing by Saffir and Cartner in the Presto movement brought out the ‘circus’ like sounds in this theatrically inspired score. The Andante with its haunting ‘French’ feel and undertones of longing is virtually obliterated by the maniacal opening of the finale. Maybe Prokofiev‘s reaction to the turmoil was to put in stark relief beauty and madness, peace and agitation.
The program opened with Mozart’s K304 sonata in e minor and Saffir and Cartner brought elegance to this structurally and emotionally simple work.
There is something quite delightful going to a one hour concert in a beautiful venue listening to fine Sydney performers in a most intelligently designed program. European cities, where people live in or very near to the city centre, have events like this all the time but it is most rare in Australian cities – the spread out suburban landscape mitigates against it. These concerts by Resonance are to be valued and savoured.