An Instrument Undeservedly Neglected

“I had long wished to write music for the flute, an instrument which I felt had been undeservedly neglected. I wanted to write a sonata in a delicate, fluid style.”

Evacuated from Moscow in August 1941, Sergei Prokofiev lived in the city of Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan for most of World War II. He was pleasantly surprised by the scenery of the city, describing it as a “pleasant place with straight, wide streets drowning in greenery.” Well removed from the front line, this was a time of great productivity for the composer, and he was able to complete some of his larger scale works during this time.

Having been inspired to write for the flute by the “heavenly sound” of French flautist Georges Barrère when the pair met in New York in 1919, in 1942 Prokofiev received a commission which gave him the opportunity to write for the instrument. After the harsh and intense sonorities of some of his war time compositions, the gentle lyricism and playfulness of the themes of the Flute Sonata belie the war time era in which it was written.

Similarly to the position of the Martinu’s Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano in the trio repertoire, Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata has become one of the most substantial and appreciated pieces in the flute repertoire. Unfortunately the Flute Sonata is somewhat of an anomaly being the only work for a wind or brass instrument among Prokofiev’s output.