So I finally received a nice, large book of Prokofiev solo piano music, and the first work I’ll be delving into is a collection of 20 small pieces entitled the Visions Fugitives.
According to the notes at the beginning of the book, the editor mentions that Prokofiev’s goal was to capture “the idea of a single fleeting mood or character” with each Vision, which seems fitting after having listened to the first 10 or so on Rhapsody.
My knowledge of Prokofiev has been rather limited until recently, but my initial reaction to his work is a modern day Debussy. The use of jazz chords, the extreme freedom/rubato, the juxtaposition of the dreamlike or humorous: all elements that recall the master impressionist composer (however, we cannot forget that Debussy rather disliked the term impressionist in relation to his own works – but that’s neither here nor there).
Here is a YouTube video of a live performance of the first nine movements of the Visions. If you don’t have time for all nine, at least check out the first one. It’s quite entrancing and only a minute or two long.
On a side note, this work also reminds me of the Brahms Waltzes: another collection of miniature gems – each one so brief yet brimming with emotion and power.
The following video contains my personal favorite of the 16 waltzes – not great sound quality I know, but this performance is far superior to the others I found on YouTube.
Miniature pieces seem more rare than they should be. Many times our focus is drawn to the pieces of great size and length (symphonies, concertos, operas, etc.) just due to the sheer volume (both dynamically and spatially).
However, when we look to a work like the waltzes or the Vision Fugitives, we find the bare necessities. With each subsequent listening, we begin to understand that these are pieces that could never get away with even one single added or deleted note. Everything falls into place with just the right moments of tension and release.
They stand alone: perhaps more simple, but, in a sense, more real.