Piano Sonata No. 9 (Prokofiev)

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Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 9 in C major, Op. 103 (1947) is a sonata for solo piano composed in 1947 and consists of four movements.


  • The Ninth Sonata—in the key of C major—is notable for the simplicity of its style, as well as for the conciseness and clarity of its structure. It lacks the dramatic conflicts, complexity, and energy of the preceding group of “War Sonatas.” The conservative musical language may be attributed partly to Prokofiev’s premonition of the politically repressive times. More likely, how ever, it reflects his general turn to a greater simplicity, as discussed in the opening chapter. The dramatic worsening of Prokofiev’s health may also have contributed to the relative lack of sheer motoric energy so typical of his music. Since early 1945, the composer had been plagued by medical problems that would haunt him for the remaining eight years of his life.
    • Boris Berman, Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas : a guide for the listener and the performer (2008), "Sonata No. 9 in C Major, op. 103"
  • A serene, meditative tone is indeed the signature mark of the Ninth. This is expressed strongest of all at the end of the work, when the opening theme of the first movement reappears. The texture of this ending, its spirit, and even its key cannot fail to bring to mind the conclusion of Beethoven’s last piano sonata (op. 111).
    Givi Ordzhonikidze observed another trait of the Ninth Sonata: the important role played by the imagery of childhood. Throughout his life, Prokofiev turned to childhood-inspired, or childhood-related, themes: from the set of piano pieces Music for Children,op. 65; to the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf,op. 67; to the suite for speakers, boys’ choir, and orchestra, Winter Bonfire,op. 122; to the oratorio On Guard for Peace,op. 124. In these works he highlights the emotional qualities associated with child hood—innocent simplicity, naïveté, pure lyricism, and carefree playfulness. These characteristics also figure prominently in later works that are not explicitly related to childhood by a program or a title, such as the Seventh Symphony or many pages in Cinderella. In the Ninth Sonata, these images are particularly prominent in the fourth movement.
    • Boris Berman, Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas : a guide for the listener and the performer (2008), "Sonata No. 9 in C Major, op. 103"
  • Sviatoslav Richter’s recording contains several deviations from the sonata’s printed score, which was published after Prokofiev’s death. I had long suspected that Richter might have been following the manuscript, which was in his possession. However, I was in no position to confirm this until recently, when I had an opportunity to examine the manuscript. Thus, for the first time I am able to say with confidence that Richter’s playing corresponds fully with the manuscript.
    • Boris Berman, Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas : a guide for the listener and the performer (2008), "Sonata No. 9 in C Major, op. 103"
  • It was Prokofiev’s birthday [probably 1947], and he invited me to visit him for the first time at his dacha at Nikolina Gora. “I’ve something interesting to show you,” he announced as soon as I arrived, whereupon he produced the sketches of his Ninth Sonata. “This will be your sonata. But do not think it’s intended to create an effect. It’s not the sort of work to raise the roof of the Grand Hall.”
    And at first glance it did indeed look a little simplistic. I was even a tiny bit disappointed.
    ... In 1951 he turned sixty. On his birthday Prokofiev was once again ill. On the eve of his birthday a concert was held at the Composers’ Union and he listened to it over the phone. It was on this occasion that I played the Ninth Sonata for the first time, a radiant, simple and even intimate work. In some ways it is a Sonata domestica. The more one hears it, the more one comes to love it and feels its magnetism. And the more perfect it seems. I love it very much.
    • Sviatoslav Richter, In: Bruno Monsaingeon, Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and Conversations,trans. Stewart Spencer
  • This sonata is very different from the three preceding ones. It is calm and deep. When I told [Prokofiev] that my first impression was of it being both Russian and Beethoven-like, he answered that he himself found both of these qualities present in it.
    • Mira Mendelson-Prokofieva, In: Sergei Prokofiev: K 50-letiyu so dnia smerti. Vospominaniya, pis’ma, stat’yi[Sergei Prokofiev: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Death. Reminiscences, Letters,Articles] (2004)

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