Today’s flautists have much for which to thank the French virtuoso Georges Barrère. A composer, performer and influential teacher, he was steadfast in his quest to promote the flute and its repertoire: nurturing new music and new performers, and inspiring several works that have since become familiar favourites.
This Sonata by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev is one such work. Although the composer first became familiar with the “heavenly sound” of Barrère’s playing during his time abroad in the early 20s, it was only whilst seeking refuge from the Second World War in the Ural mountains that the composer took time to indulge in an exploration of the instrument’s charm. He wrote:
“Perhaps this was inappropriate at the moment, but pleasant. I had long wanted to write a work for the neglected flute, and I wanted this sonata to have a delicate, fluid classical style.”
From the sunny themes of the work’s opening sonata to the philosophical andante and the exuberant finale, Prokofiev’s Sonata is a delightful celebration of the beauty and versatility of the instruments for which it was written. Ironically, it was not until Prokofiev rescored the work for violin and piano – a year following the premier of the original – that this work began to grow in popularity. It has since become one of the twentieth century’s best known violin sonatas, and has also been adapted for both the clarinet and the bassoon. Yet the version for flute and piano best captures the simple charm that was the composer’s original intention.