Prokofiev Sonata op. 94, 3rd movement

For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

III. Andante (♩=50)

This movement is significantly shorter than the other movements in this work, it is just under 4 minutes in long while the other movements average 6 minutes. The organization of this movement is less clear than the preceding movements. Similar to movements I and II this movement has a general ternary (ABA’) form. For context, movement 1 is in Sonata form and movement 2 is in ternary form – both can be fit under the umbrella of “ternary” form where an idea is presented, contrasted, and then reappears with some variations. In this post I’ll be arguing that the 3rd movement more closely resembles Sonata form; senza any repeats.


Patterns: There are two large motives within the 3rd movement – the lyrical eighth notes (A) and the restless triplet sixteenths (B).

Ambiguity: A running theme throughout this analysis will be the speculation of the new tonal areas. It is given that the “home key” is F Major this is reinforced by the pedal Fs in the piano during the first theme, however, the introduction of the first F# in m. 8. is where the tonal structure becomes less stable. I will be providing both the context of the flute and piano scores to assert my speculated tonal areas outside of the home key.

To review Sonata form there must be an exposition (including first theme in the home key and a secondary theme which begins to explore a new tonal area); a development is in that new key and starts out relatively stable followed by different techniques such as sequences or fragmenting to ‘develop’ the a new idea; the recapitulation begins and ends in the home key for both the first and secondary themes.


Exposition

The exposition of the third movement lasts from m. 1-33. The first theme is stated with the flute entering before the piano on three eighths in an inverted triad (in this case G-C-E) which moves to a down beat F. The beat hierarchy (in this case the meter is 2/4 making 1 the emphasized beat and the rest less weighted) is of note because Prokofiev places the already unstable inversion of the dominant triad (CM) and resolves to the tonic (F) on the downbeat to begin the process of tonicizing F Major. Throughout the first 7 measures the note F is sustained between the flute and piano parts – the flute holding it through m. 2-3 while the piano oscillates between the 3rd and 5th (A-C); and then the piano dovetails that F in m.3-7 while the flute moves around the diatonic scale… until measure 8 when F# is introduced.

Context is important, remember Prokofiev was still living in and composing in the Soviet Union which was largely scrutinizing his output; and the relationship when it comes to modulations has ‘Classical’ rules that Prokofiev would have been expected to follow.

For example, it is common to see parallel M to m – for instance if we saw F Major modulate to 4 flats, f minor that could be a valid option. Or the Dominant, if F Major modulated to C Major.

What is unusual is to modulate a semitone (aka a half step) above the tonic. This may have been more acceptable within Romantic music, but remember context, the Socialist Realism within the Soviet Union was decades behind and the preference was for ‘Classical’ traditions NOT Romantic traditions from the latter half of the 19th century.

I find this modulation of particular interest for two reasons (1) it is that m2 interval from the home key (2) it is a tritone away from the dominant, which Prokofiev so strongly reinforced. Both are dissonant intervals, both suggesting a rebellious effort on Prokofiev’s part to explore tonalization whilst concealing it from government. When listening to the piece the transition from F Major to F# is skillfully blended, Prokofiev keeps the familiar intervallic patterns to instill nostalgia to the listener to deter them from looking closer at the slight adjustment in pitch.

Of course this is unusual for Sonata form – the key relation, changing within the first theme, is not expected especially when compared to the 1st movement of the Sonata. However the same can be said for the 2nd movement and ternary form, Prokofiev’s navigation of the keys is unusual on paper. I would identify this section m. 8-17 as the transitional theme between the first and second movements.

By m. 18-26 we are in the secondary theme; this is differentiated from the opening theme by the piano having the entrance before the flute, and take careful notice of which notes Prokofiev puts on the downbeats in m. 20-22 “C-E-G”… not F, which is the supposed home key. And by the closing theme m. 27-33, one could argue that Prokofiev is not ending with a half cadence in F, but a PAC in C Major. I argue the latter given the closer resemblance to Sonata form (which would need this transition away from the home key) as well as the underhanded ways Prokofiev reinforces a new key while burying it on paper with NCTs and accidentals galore.

The GREEN boxes represent the tonicizing of the dominant (CM); the BLUE boxes represent FM.

Development

The development takes up a significant portion of this movement lasting m. 34-73. The most obvious separation between A and B when looking at the movement on paper is Prokofiev’s use of rhythm. Nearly the entire development is triplet sixteenth notes.

Strengthening my assertion that the closing theme of the exposition ended in C Major, the development starts in C the pedal C’s in the piano m. 35-36 as well as 39-40; and using the 5th (G) to establish that tonic-dominant relationship.

By m. 43, Prokofiev begins to transition out of this new key into the 7th, another unusual choice, but given his previous modulation from F to F#, this new transition creates an odd tonal symmetry. Instead of going up another semitone, this time his goes DOWN from CM to b minor. As mentioned, this is not ‘Classical’ tradition and is a sneaky way to exploring tonality that Prokofiev blends in so the listener is none the wiser.

By measure 47 the new key of b minor is fully embraced – seen by the pedal B natural in the piano m. 47-50 as well as the inverted arpeggio echoing in the pick up to m. 48. Prokofiev employs the use of semitones again in m. 51 as he transitions away from b minor – notice how the LH of the piano moves from B-A# and F to F#; this is masked by the flute in m. 52 when Prokofiev gives the flute a B natural on the downbeat before the stark contrast in m. 53 when the flute’s A is played against a G and C in the piano, as Prokofiev returns to the CM idea explored at the beginning of the development.

For the most part the next bit (m. 53-63) is still in CM, with that semitone embellishment that Prokofiev has been entertaining throughout the movement. By m. 64-65 Prokofiev is playing with semitones in a sequential manner – he is highlighting them with the triplet sixteenth figure, the prolonged descending chromatic pattern, and the rest in the piano. These two measures are a sequence of first inversion arpeggios starting Db6 – C6 – Cb6 – Bb6- A6 – Ab6 – A6 – Bb6.

And then… key change, from one flat to six. Again this choice is somehow symmetrical. Recall the initial key of the development C Major, and how Prokofiev took his time alternating CM – G to emphasize the tonic-dominant relationship. And after a brief deviation, Prokofiev returned to the tonal area of C only to abruptly interject with the chromatic sequence. And now Gb is introduced, again a semitone lower than the dominant (G) of C Major. It is another calculated decision of Prokofiev’s part to mask his tonal exploration by delaying it by two measures.

And one could even argue that this section ends with a PAC in Gb, m. 73 where the G is presented in both flute and piano on the downbeat followed by the 5th (Db) in the piano LH.


Recapitulation

Somehow, despite all detours, Prokofiev has come full circle and beautifully manages to connect Gb to it’s enharmonic equivalent F#.

A brief transition m. 74-81, where the flute resembles the A section while the piano is wrapping up the B section, sets up for a PAC in F Major in measure 81.

The PURPLE box represents the A theme (transposed); the ORANGE box represents the B theme (also transposed)

What is interesting is that ever since the transition in m. 74 the piano LH never plays another ‘F#’ for the duration of the piece, pedaling an F m. 82-88 while the flute will occasional play F#s to recount the brief exploration of F# during the transitional theme in the exposition.

The piece ends with a PAC in F Major. From a subjective view, I must admit that it always feels odd transition from measures 82-91 to the last three measures. Something about the juxtaposition between the flute (bringing out the NCTs and F# in particular) while the piano’s LH is fairly stable during m. 82-91 and then m. 92-94 suddenly that hand switches to descending chromaticism.

The RED represents notes indicating F#/Gb; as Prokofiev explores more romantic chromaticism; The BLUE represents notes within the FM diatonic scale

What are your thoughts on the 3rd movement of Prokofiev’s op. 94?

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