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Ghoulish Prokofiev: “Suggestion Diabolique”

There’s nothing more exhilarating than raw terror. If you aren’t convinced, take a moment and listen to Sergei Prokofiev’s Suggestion Diabolique, the ghoulishly demonic final movement of the 1908 Four Pieces for Piano, Op. 4. It’s a thrilling ride, along the lines of Schubert’s Erlkönig. Opening in the growling lowest register of the piano, this music resides just on the edge of tonality. You can sense the young Prokofiev flexing his compositional muscles and rebelling against rigid rules and convention. Those deep melodic interjections remained a part of Prokofiev’s later vocabulary. For example, listen to the way those lines suggest a sense of breadth and massive scale in this excerpt from Romeo and Juliet. 

Here is a live concert clip with Evgeny Kissin:

Recordings

  • Prokofiev: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1, Boris Berman iTunes
  • Prokofiev: Piano Works, Jenny Lin iTunes
  • Evgeny Kissin’s complete discography iTunes

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