quite such an unknown figure as is implied in the presentation
of this CD – which carries the title ‘Virtuoso Violin Music
at the Court of Catherine the Great’. He was the subject of
a substantial book by Anne Mischakoff – Khandoshkin and
the Beginning of Russian String Music (UMI Research Press)
– published in 1983. That Mischakoff is presumably identical
with the Anne Mischakoff Heiles who contributes the valuable
booklet notes here. The three sonatas for unaccompanied violin
were recorded by Alexander Chernov in 1994 and issued on Etcetera;
a recording I haven’t heard. Still, it is true enough that his
music hasn’t attracted the attention it probably deserves.
It is of interest
for at least two reasons. The first is historical. Khandoshkin
was perhaps the first native Russian violinist-composer to become
a ‘star’ at a Russian court dominated by diasporic Italian masters,
with one of whom, Tito Porta, Khandoshkin had studied. These
three sonatas appear to be the only examples of the genre to
have been written in Russia during the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. A second, more important, reason for taking an interest
in Khandoshkin’s music is that some of it is really rather good.
The three unaccompanied
sonatas can be thought of, stylistically, as belatedly baroque
in some ways, but more obviously as anticipations of Paganini.
This area of Khandhoskin’s work belongs in a line that runs
through J.S. Bach and Biber, and such figures as Tartini, Gavinié
and Locatelli on its way to Paganini. There is little, to my
ears, which is distinctively Russian in these sonatas - though
the closing andante of the first sonata takes the form of variations
on a Russian song and the last movement of the second sonata
is apparently based on a Russian dance known as the khrovod.
This is very colourful music, full of appoggiaturas, dotted
rhythms, double and quadruple stoppings, insistent ostinatos,
rapid scales, oddly proportioned phrases and unexpected harmonic
leaps. There is a rather cold feeling to much of the music,
more marked by glitter and virtuosity than by any great emotional
or intellectual depths. But that is not to say more than that
the sonatas, unsurprisingly, are not quite Bach; but they are
interesting, challenging, intriguing works, and are given highly
assured performances at the hands of Anastasia Khitruck, born
in Moscow but largely trained in the U.S.A.
The Six Old Russian
Songs are built on simple traditional melodies, richly ornamented
by Khandoshkin. The dance rhythms of ‘Along the bridge’ affect
an imitation of the balalaika at one point. ‘Is this my fate?’
is the melody used by Beethoven in the Razumovsky quartets.
‘Once I was a Young man’ is treated by Khandoshkin with a particularly
fertile inventiveness and ‘Little dove why do you sit so sadly’
has something of that melancholy conventionally attributed to
the Russian sensibility.
performance, throughout, is exemplary. Her technical command
is very impressive and she brings great energy to the task;
insofar as Khandoshkin’s music allows it, her playing is also
marked by its emotional sensitivity.
A very worthwhile
and enjoyable disc, even if it plumbs no great depths. Khitruk
is surely a violinist of whom we shall hear much more.
see also Review
by Jonathan Woolf
Solo Violin Music of Ivan Khandoshkin
by Anastasia Khitruk