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It was Sviatoslav Richter’s performance of Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata which put that work on the map, and he also nailed its significance: ‘With wild audacity the composer broke with the ideals of Romanticism and introduced into his music the terrifying pulse of 20th-century music’. Vadym Kholodenko brings to it a lively awareness of this fact, in a performance combining passion with impressive cerebral control. After the mighty opening – this was one of the three ‘War Sonatas’ Prokofiev started in 1939 – he proceeds to give the opening movement a pervasively questioning quality, evoking a world that is both figuratively and literally collapsing. The staccato chords of the Allegretto have a perkily sardonic charm, the waltz comes with generous sweep, and the finale vividly conjures up the struggle to preserve some kind of optimism.

Kholodenko’s playing has wonderful cleanness and precision, and no matter how light his touch you are always aware of his reserves of power. He also knows how to tease out the elusive qualities in less well-known works: ‘Things in themselves’, inspired by Prokofiev’s reading of Kant, and Four Pieces, which present four styles of dance. The most exciting section of this excellent album comes with Visions fugitives, the 20 snapshots with which Prokofiev honoured the memory of Chopin and gave a nod towards Scriabin. Kholodenko turns them into a cavalcade of quirky beauty.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica


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