Piano Sonatas Nos 9 & 10
Sonatinas Nos 1 & 2
Cello Sonata in C major
Peter Donohoe, Piano
Raphael Wallfisch, Cello
It is a well known fact that Shostakovich, Prokofiev and other leading Soviet composers suffered badly as a consequence of the notorious Zhdanov Decree, issued under Stalin's direct orders, in 1948. The Decree meant that Prokofiev was virtually forced to renounce his own work, with the result that he spent his last years mostly in artistic seclusion, virtually ignored by the state until a year or so before he died.
Amongst Prokofiev’s friends during those last years were the pianist Sviatoslav Richter and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. They inspired the composer to continue his work and he in turn dedicated his 1947 Ninth Piano Sonata, Op. 103 in C major to Richter. This carefully crafted work is considered by many to be Prokofiev’s masterpiece for the piano and is endlessly fascinating in its interweaving of contrapuntal strands, its varied textural layout and the subtle way in which each movement’s codetta reveals the main theme of the next.
Sonata No. 10, Op. 137 was among the projects Prokofiev planned in the last year of his life, which remained unrealised. However, the surviving two pages give us a tantalising glimpse of ‘what might have been’, the fragment’s starting point indicating that it was to be a re-working of the E minor Sonatina No. 1, Op. 54 (1931-2). Both this and Sonatina No. 2 are included on this disc and are delightful miniatures, each lasting less than ten minutes overall.
Among the amazing group of late works which Prokofiev wrote for Rostropovich was the Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 119 in C major, dedicated to Lev Atovmyan and premiered by Rostropovich and Richter in Moscow in 1950. The three-movement Sonata is perfectly realised for the two instruments which remain virtually equal partners throughout, the dialogue between them showing Prokofiev at the height of his powers.
Peter Donohoe was born in Manchester in 1952. He studied at Chetham’s School of Music for seven years, graduated in music at Leeds University, and went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music with Derek Wyndham and then in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod.
Since his unprecedented success as joint winner of the 1982 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, he has developed a distinguished career in Europe, the USA, the Far East, New Zealand and Australia. He is acclaimed as one of the foremost pianists of our time for his musicianship, stylistic versatility and commanding technique. Donohoe played with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Sir Simon Rattle’s opening concerts as Music Director. He has also performed with all the major London orchestras, Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Philharmonic, Swedish Radio, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Vienna Symphony and Czech Philharmonic Orchestras. He made his twenty-second appearance at the BBC Proms in 2012 and has appeared at many other festivals including six consecutive visits to the Edinburgh Festival, La Roque d’Antheron in France, and at the Ruhr and Schleswig Holstein Festivals in Germany. In the United States, he has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. Peter Donohoe also performs numerous recitals internationally and continues working with his long standing duo partner Martin Roscoe, as well as more recent collaborations with Raphael Wallfisch, Elizabeth Watts and Noriko Ogawa.
Peter Donohoe is an honorary doctor of music at seven UK universities and is artistic director at Fishguard Festival. He was awarded a CBE for services to classical music in the 2010 New Years Honours List.
Raphael Wallfisch was born in London into a family of distinguished musicians, his mother the cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, and his father, the pianist Peter Wallfisch. At an early age, Raphael was greatly inspired by hearing Zara Nelsova play, and, guided by a succession of fine teachers, including Amaryllis Fleming, Amadeo Baldovino and Derek Simpson, it became apparent that the cello was to be his life’s work.
While studying with the great Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky in California, he was chosen to perform chamber music with Jascha Heifetz in the informal recitals that Piatigorsky held at his home.
At the age of twenty-four he won the Gaspar Cassado international Cello Competition in Florence. Since then he has enjoyed a worldwide career playing with such orchestras as the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, the Halle, City of Birmingham Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Berlin Symphony, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic and many others. He is regularly invited to play at major festivals such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Spoleto, Prades, Oslo and Schleswig Holstein.
Teaching is one of Raphael Wallfisch’s passions and he teaches masterclasses all over the world. He holds professorships in Switzerland at the Zurich Winterthur Konservatorium and in Manchester at the Royal Northern College of Music. He has an extensive discography of recordings with EMI, Chandos and other labels. Britain’s leading composers have worked closely with Wallfisch, often writing works for him. Among these are Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, John Metcalf, Paul Patterson, Robert Simpson, Robert Saxton, Roger Smalley, Giles Swayne, John Tavener and Adrian Williams.
Raphael Wallfisch plays the 1865 Vuillaume “Sheremetev” and a Gennaro Gagliano of 1760.