Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Professor Jean-François Heisser and student Hugo Panonacle examine one of Sergueï Prokofiev's three war sonatas, composed in the Second World War.
Produced by the Saline royale Academy
In this masterclass, Professor Jean-François Heisser and student Hugo Panonacle take on one of the three war sonatas composed by Sergueï Prokofiev during the Second World War.
This piece is technically difficult and with the historical context in mind, Prokofiev wrote a very industrial, mechanical, and almost obsessive piece for the piano. In order to capture this in one’s playing, Professor Heisser advises his student to develop a very flexible wrist, otherwise, all the “dry parts” will not produce a good sound. Inspired by Stravinsky, the Piano Sonata No.7 in B-flat major is meant to be interpreted with “dryness” but without “hardness”, a difficult abstract concept to capture in one’s playing.
Additionally, the pair work on octaves, developing tone without playing too loudly, and fingering.
Incorporating the context of the composition into one’s performance.
Fingering and flexibility of the wrist is essential.
Working on articulation.
Playing with serenity.
Working on octaves.
The sonata for solo piano was written by Russian composer Sergueï Prokofiev in 1942 as part of the three war sonatas. The No. 7, sometimes called the “Stalingrad”, was first performed in Moscow in January 1943, and can last from 17 to 20 minutes. In a very violent context during Stalin’s reign, Prokofiev was asked to compose a piece for the dictator’s 60th birthday. He wrote the sonatas as a forced cheerful evocation of Stalin, but expressed his true feelings through his music.
The interpreter must absolutely know the context of the piece and the composer's true feelings about it. The war sonatas were first recorded in 1945 by musician Vladimir Horowitz.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Jean-François Heisser’s feedback and comments.
1973: 1st Prize in piano, counterpoint, harmony, fugue, accompaniment and chamber music.
Jean-François Heisser is a well-rounded artist, leading a versatile career as a pianist, conductor and teacher. Born in Saint-Étienne, France, he is the disciple and heir of Vlado Perlemuter, Henriette Puig-Roget and Maria Curcio.
From 1991 to 2016, he was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. Among his talented students are Bertrand Chamayou and Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, with whom he has developed a relationship of close musical complicity. Presently, he balances his career between being a Musical Director for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra (since 2001), a guest conductor, as a solo artist, and as an Artistic Director of various institutions and major musical productions.
As a soloist, he has played under the baton of renowned conductors such as Janowski, Tilson Thomas, Segerstam, Krivine, Mehta, Plasson, Roth etc., with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Orchestre National de France or Les Siècles, and more. He frequently performs in recitals, with a preference for Beethoven (Sonatas, Diabelli Variations etc.), Brahms, Chopin, the Spanish repertoire (Albéniz, de Falla, Granados, Mompou), as well as the works of great French composers of the past and present.
As a chamber musician, Jean-François Heisser has covered the entire repertoire with musical partners such as the Ysaye, Lindsay, and Pražák Quartets, and his recording of the Bartok sonatas with Peter Csaba (on Praga) is now regarded as an essential work. As a Musical Director, Heisser has been in charge of developing the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra project since 2001, firmly establishing the orchestra as one of the finest French chamber ensembles, as reflected in its recordings on the Mirare label.
Moreover, his extensive discography boasts over 40 recordings: after his highly acclaimed recording of the piano works of Paul Dukas (awarded the Diapason d’or de l’année prize), he embarked on a collaboration with Erato Records (a 6-CD boxed set dedicated to the Spanish repertoire of Schumann, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, etc.), then with Naïve Records (Beethoven, Brahms) and Praga Records (Weber, Berg, Manoury, Bartok…). More recently, recordings of Marie-Josèphe Jude with Heisser’s transcription for 2 pianos of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (Harmonia Mundi) have been released.
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.