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Victor Pikaizen (violin)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin (ca. 1720) [155:34]
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV1001
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV1002
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV1003
Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV1005
Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV1006
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices for solo violin, Op.1 (1837) [86:58]
Introduction and variations on "God Save The King" [15:33] ¹
Variations on "Pria ch’io l’impegno" (Veigl) [10:38] ¹
Introduction and Variations on "Non piu mesta" from Rossini’s La Cenerentola [13:41] ¹
Konstantin MOSTRAS (1886-1965)

Caprice (Recitative and Toccata) [4:57] ¹
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)

Sonata-monologue for violin solo (1975) [16:19]
Yuri LEVITIN (1912-1993)

Variations Op.45 (c.1956) [9:43]
Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (Moishei VAINBERG) (1919-1996)

Sonata No.3 for solo violin Op.126 (1979) [23:15]
Victor Pikaizen (violin)
Tatiana Pikaizen (piano) ¹
Rec. Moscow 1958-83
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 01000 [5 CDs: 73:39 + 59:37 + 71:12 + 70:30 + 61:35]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices for solo violin, Op.1 (1837) [86:58]
Introduction and variations on "God Save The King" [15:33]
Variations on "Pria ch’io l’impegno" (Veigl) [10:38]
Introduction and Variations on "Non piu mesta" from Rossini’s La Cenerentola [13:41]
Konstantin MOSTRAS (1886-1965)

Caprice (Recitative and Toccata) [4:57]
Victor Pikaizen (violin)
Rec. Moscow 1958-82
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 001004 [70:30 + 61:35]


 


Pikaizen, born in Kiev in 1933, is one of the major violinists of his generation. He studied in his native city and for a significant time with David Oistrakh. Melodiya’s biographical notes are indifferently translated and sketchy on detail and you’d be far better off reading the illuminating article and interview with the violinist in the relevant volume of Samuel Applebaum’s The Way They Play. Here Pikaizen’s musicianship comes under intelligent scrutiny and if his answers reveal political pressures – notably his espousal of the Khrennikov concertos as a "career highlight" – then much can still be inferred. Certainly the technical matters that are raised are particularly revealing of his practical and commonsensical outlook.

Pikaizen has recorded widely and so this doesn’t pretend to be anything approaching a complete edition; at five CDs that could hardly be the case. But it does collect two important cycles, the Bach Sonatas and Partitas and the Paganini Caprices, and these form the cornerstone of this collection and one assumes of Pikaizen’s approach to the solo repertoire as a whole. He’s joined by his daughter Tatiana for the three Paganini showcases and the Mostras – otherwise concentration is focused entirely on Pikaizen.

His Bach is powerful, considered, cautious as regards tempi, and deeply serious. The Siciliana of the G minor Sonata for example is slow, reflective and almost entirely non-terpsichorean. Pikaizen’s tone is expressive, masculine and forwardly projected and in the Grave of the A minor Sonata the colour he conjures is wide, and subtly deployed. Rubato is effective here and the trills are tight though not electric in velocity. The same sonata’s Fuga is circumspect but the Largo full of judicious expression. His introversion comes across strongly in the opening Adagio of the C major though the differently weighted and differentiated fugal voicings are the most outstanding feature of his playing of this work.

But for all the sculpted drama things are, as perhaps I’ve suggested, occasionally devitalised. That’s certainly the case in the Allemande of the D minor Partita. And in the Chaconne – measured, once more – we find that for all the relative aristocracy of utterance, and indeed some intriguing phraseology, clearly deeply considered, things don’t really generate intense cumulative vibrancy, despite some hushed confidential asides.

His Paganini is similarly slower than other better-known top-flight players. One doesn’t need to turn to, say, Ricci to find that the degree of measure and reserve in Pikaizen’s playing ensures a technically superb but sometimes devil-compromised traversal. David Oistrakh used to refer to the Caprices as the Encyclopaedia, or the Bible. One feels the power of his technical and tonal reserves in the E minor but the following C minor is really very slow as is the G minor. The minor key caprices, perhaps inevitably, show this perhaps over-cautious nature most clearly. In the E flat major one hears how in the octave episode he plays the ascending phrase on the G and the D strings – a more demanding option but one that characterises the passage highly impressively (though the critical may note that even Pikaizen nudges adjacent strings in this treacherous Caprice). The showpieces are dispatched with flair and digital control.

Konstantin Mostras was an important pedagogue and his little Caprice is an impressive piece; it encourages the thought that more players should take up Mostras. It’s the third CD of the set however that gives us works most characteristically associated with Pikaizen. The Khachaturian – but the notes won’t tell you this – was dedicated to the violinist in 1975. Its recitative character has a keening depth allied to vocalised power and generates plenty of folkloric drive into the bargain. The knocking on the body of the violin adds a certain percussive drama but the finale ends in a rather quizzical, unresolved way – a work that passes through progressive emotive states, not at all trivial but concentrated and controlled. Yuri Levitin’s Op.45 Variations is more of a virtuosic study. Levitin was a fine pianist and recorded his own 1956 C minor violin Sonata with David Oistrakh so maybe Pikaizen come across his work through the older violinist. Weinberg’s long, involved and strenuous 1979 sonata finds a magnificent champion in Pikaizen. The only moments in these five discs when his vibrato takes on an overwrought edge are in this work – and the application of this wide vibrato is emotively entirely persuasive. The lyric sections, too, are finely controlled and the whole structure is delineated by the soloist with utter assurance; he proves as worthy an ambassador here as he does for Khachaturian or - not in this set - Boris Tchaikovsky.

These discs are available separately - with the Paganini and Mostras (as noted above) being a two CD set - or in a card slipcase. They show Pikaizen’s devotion to the canonic and to the exploratory. If I admire his twentieth century Russian repertoire most I hardly deprecate the Bach and Paganini. They are sturdy and deeply considered examples of his art. But the contemporary works are more characteristic and revealing, though occupying significantly less space. Should you want to start with these works I recommend MEL CD 10 001003, which also contains the E major Partita.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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