A Most Difficult Piano Solo
One of my favorite works for the piano is Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. It’s one of the few pieces I’ll find myself listening to over and over and over. It’s a pity that one needs an orchestra to play it with, for I’d love to spend the next couple of years learning it and playing it badly.
In the first movement, there’s a five-minute piano solo (a cadenza) that is one of the most difficult passages in all of piano repertoire to play. A portion of it contains a melody hidden among incredibly rapid passages in both hands. The printed music for that section requires three clefs – a bass clef and treble clef and an additional one for that melody – and humans only have two hands.
This solo just continues to grow in intensity. Just when you think it can’t get anymore difficult, it takes off from there. The orchestra re-enters with huge, rumbling bass horns and shrieking woodwinds. That part always thrills me.
Here’s one of the best recordings I’ve ever seen of that five-minute solo. It’s pretty astounding: