Violin Sonata No. 1, 3rd movement
In this masterclass, Barnabás Kelemen discusses controlling the bow and vibrato in the third movement of Prokofiev’s first violin sonata in order to emphasize musical decisions. He reveals how the different aspects of the bow stroke - pressure, speed, hold, and movement - all contribute to producing the intended sound or phrase. He also works with the student on being flexible with her vibrato so that it fits into different dynamics or sound colors. The goal is to closely follow the written markings, capture the different colors and characters in the music, and accurately translate the music in the student’s head through the violin to the audience. Keleman also encourages the student to study the score in depth so that she can base her musical decisions off the harmonic changes and rhythms occurring in the orchestra, and helps her physically hold the violin so she can realize her best sound.
Capturing the moods and characters in the work.
Controlling the bow stroke and how to use it to show musical decisions.
Paying attention to small details in phrasing and harmonic color changes.
Keeping the orchestration in mind while playing.
Varying the vibrato like a singer.
Prokofiev began work on his first violin sonata in 1938, but it took him eight years to complete. He actually finished writing his second violin sonata two years before the first premiered. Because it was composed over the course of World War II, it is unsurprising that it is one of the darkest works in both the composer’s output as well as in the category of violin concertos. The piece was premiered by the great violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Lev Oborin. Prokofiev wrote the sonata in the style of a Handel sonata, which contained four movements alternating between slow and fast tempos. However, each movement is rife with contrast and turbulent emotion.
The first movement, Andante assai, is stark in character, changing between quiet, haunting passages and louder yet still dark interjections. The second movement, Allegro brusco, trades harsh language between the two instruments, culminating in a brilliantly virtuosic drive to the finish. The third movement, Andante, reverts back to sparseness with hushed arpeggiated figures under gentle melodies.
The final movement, Allegrissimo-Adante assai, come prima combines accents, fast, technical runs, and complex rhythms in both instruments. It is occasionally interrupted by quiet, more subdued music, which the music eventually devolves into by the end.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Barnabás Kelemen's feedback and comments.
He won first prize at the Salzburg International Mozart Violin Competition in 1999 and at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition in 2002.
Barnabás Kelemen has performed at some of the most famous concert halls in the world with his virtuoso technique and dynamic, passionate playing style. Versatile and open-minded, he is an outstanding soloist and chamber musician, as well as an Artistic Director of various festivals, and a teacher at renowned institutions. In recent years, he has also worked professionally as a conductor.
His repertoire is very diverse, including works from early Baroque, Classical, Romantic works, as well as pieces from the twentieth century. Additionally, he is a devoted advocate of contemporary music.
He regularly performs at the world’s most prominent concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Royal Festival Hall, the Palais de Beaux Arts, Suntory Hall, and the Berliner Philharmonie. He is a frequent guest of such eminent ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and Hannover’s NDR Radiophilharmonie, to name but a few.
Barnabás Kelemen has worked with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Sir Neville Marriner, Vladimir Jurowski, Marek Janowski, Michael Stern, Krzysztof Urbanski, Zoltán Kocsis, Péter Eötvös, and Iván Fischer. He is also an avid conductor himself – in recent seasons he has directed the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Israeli Chamber Ensemble, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, and the symphonic orchestras of the Hungarian cities of Szombathely, Győr, and Pécs. On top of all this, he is a sensitive and experienced chamber musician who has played with artists of the calibre of Dezső Ránki, Steven Isserlis, Miklós Perényi, Alina Ibragimova, Vilde Frang, José Gallardo, and Andreas Ottensamer.
Together with Katalin Kokas, he is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Festival Academy Budapest Chamber Music Festival, which regularly features artists such as Vilde Frang, Maxim Rysanov, Shlomo Mintz, and Joshua Bell.
Sergei Prokofiev was a pianist and composer, born in Sontsovka (present-day Ukraine) in 1891. Naturally gifted, he began composing at an early age, and by 11 years old, he had already written two operas and a series of small piano pieces that he endearingly called his “little puppies.” His composition style became more complex over time, using unconventional time signatures and key changes.
His formal musical education began under the tutelage of Reinhold Glière. At 13, he began his studies at the Conservatory in St Petersburg. Upon completing his studies at the Conservatory, he won first prize (the Rubinstein Prize) with his first piano concerto, although the decision was not unanimous. While celebrated by some critics for being modern and avant-garde, Prokofiev’s compositions were not enjoyed by all. After completing his studies, Sergei Prokofiev traveled to London, where he met Diaghilev of the Ballet Russes, and Igor Stravinsky, who was writing ballet music for Diaghilev at the time. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring made a particular impact on Prokofiev, notably in his compositions. The young composer wrote the opera The Gambler, based on a novel by Alekseï Alekseïevitch Broussilov, but the orchestra and singers struggled to understand the music, and refused to perform it. Prokofiev wrote his First Symphony, also known as the Classical Symphony, which resembles music from the Classical period, such as the works by Joseph Haydn. This work became internationally acclaimed and is still a very popular symphony today.
After living in New York for a few years to escape the chaos ensuing back home in Russia, Prokofiev eventually returned to Western Europe, proposing a ballet to Diaghilev in Paris. His ballet, now known as the Scythian Suite was not well received by Diaghilev. He wrote another ballet, The Tale of the Buffoon as well as his Third Piano Concerto, which were very popular, especially the latter.
Despite Prokofiev’s successful reputation in Western Europe, he returned to the Soviet Union after being beckoned by some of his contemporaries. Life was not easy for artists at the time. In spite of this, Prokofiev managed to write many of his major works during the Second World War, including but not limited to War and Peace (based on the novel by Tolstoy), Betrothal in a Monastery, and more.
Sergei Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953, of a brain hemorrhage. Due to the fact that Josef Stalin died on the same day, Prokofiev’s death was barely mentioned and went largely unnoticed in the media.