On Saturday, November 9, I attended a Master’s Piano Recital performed by Svitlana Tulieva, class of Marina Mdivani. I have analyzed two of the works she played: “Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75,” composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953); and Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 by Beethoven (1770-1827). The concert was performed in Pollack Hall, Schulich School of Music, McGill University.
Prokofiev’s piano solo work comprises 10 piano pieces that were in fact derived from his larger orchestral ballet, Romeo and Juliet, based on the Shakespearean tragedy. Music from the ballet was reused in other suites for orchestra in addition to this piano solo. These works can be described under the broader umbrella of “programme music” i.e. instrumental music that accompanies an extramusical work. The association between the two is often indicated in the title of the piece. In this case, the title: “Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75” reveals the extramusical elements (the play, the characters). The specific genre of the work is ballet score, accompanying the ballet dance.
Stylistically, Prokofiev’s music is reflective of the Modern Era, more aggressive and dissonant (i.e. characterized by relatively tense and unstable intervals or chords) than its Romantic/Classical predecessors. The work exudes a playful, somewhat mischievous, persona, artfully employing tempo shifts, melodic contrasts, and atonality.
The piece that captivated me the most was “The Montagues and Capulets.” I could easily recognize the motive – a fragment that featured a jarring, pulsating beat as the foundation of the dissonant melodies and chords, conveying a dark, foreboding mood. The pianist accentuated the beat to the point where it sounded unstable and tense, but naturally so, retaining its musicality. I found the rests (pauses) particularly effective in building suspense and tension. In such a programmatic piece, it is important to keep in mind the context of the...