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Mikhail Zemtsov
Gerstkamp 131
2592CR Den Haag


The Last Rose of Summer
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894) Viola Sonata [27.55]
Mihail RADULESCU (b. 1943) Viola Suonata [10.30] *
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962) arr. Alan H. Arnold Recitativo en Scherzo Caprice [5.09] *
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915) arr. M. Sokolov; I. Safonov; G. Bezrukov: Desire; Mazurka; Prelude [4.25]*
Mikhail KUGEL (b. 1946) Prelude Ysaye [4.10]
Evgeny ZEMTSOV (b. 1940) Melodia [3.59] *
Wilhelm ERNST (1814-1865) Arr. Mikhail Kugel The Last Rose of Summer [10.19] *
G.F. HANDEL Concerto for viola and piano; 1st movement [6.50] **
* world premiere recordings
Mikhail Zemtsov (viola)
Dana Zemtsov (viola) **
Irina Shishkina (piano)
rec. live, Castle Duivenvoorde, Voorschoten, Netherlands, 6 Nov 2004. DDD



After an impassioned performance of the Rubinstein sonata enhanced by Zemtsov’s dusky and husky tone we come to two viola solos. And that is not the last we hear of the solo instrument: the disc also includes solos by Mikhail Kugel and another arranged by him. However let’s not skip over the Rubinstein sonata just yet. Anton Rubinstein has had a rather flaccid press. Frankly from what I have heard of the five piano concertos on Marco Polo he probably merits it. In the case of this work and specifically this heroic performance he deserves better. This sonata is no thin-lipped salon bloom but carries a genuine emotional charge floridly spanning the boundaries between Schumann and Tchaikovsky. The music is ardent and is here presented with both passion and a breathless yet disciplined awe. Time after time Zemtsov can be heard shaping each note with utmost care yet always keeping in touch with the ‘line’ of the piece. Shishkina’s piano is not perhaps the most luxurious of instruments but its bass qualities are unflinchingly captured and she is unfailingly responsive to the score and her partner. Not to be missed by admirers of early Rachmaninov or of Tchaikovsky.

Speaking of romantic afflatus the Russian transcriptions of piano solos by Scriabin are saturated with feeling and not to be missed. The Mazurka lacks that febrile and volatile spontaneity but the flanking movements carry the authentic voice of the composer.

Evgeny Zemtsov is the violist’s father. His unassumingly titled Melodia has both simplicity and pathos mixed with the faintest hint of Mid-European folk influence. It’s a very likeable piece.

Michael Radulescu’s soliloquy opens in an atmosphere of haunted sepia-toned melancholia with modest excursions into dissonance. It becomes increasingly vehement and is strongly tinged with Balkan flavours. Its parabola curves down into the pensive material with which the piece opened. Kreisler’s Recitativo is not a piece I had heard before. Again it is for viola and puts the instrument through the sort of hoops set by Bach and Paganini. The Ysaye Prelude by Kugel again puts the instrument through its paces but takes a little more time than the Kreisler to present poetic substance. The Ernst Variations on ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ put the well known piano-stool theme through the Paganinian mincer. Listen to the superbly skeletal double-stopping at 7:20 onwards.

The bonus track is of Mikhail Zemtsov’s twelve year old daughter in the cantabile first movement of the Handel concerto for viola and piano. She gives a securely rounded and satisfying performance - remarkable for its constancy of motion.

Zemtsov clearly has no time for the lithe-toned viola school. He rapturously draws from the instrument its rosin-sticky celloistic qualities.

There are no background notes nor are dates or playing times given for the works. These details should be picked up in what I hope will be future enterprising releases from Zemtsov.

Mr Zemtsov was also kind enough to send me a private CDR of the Viola Sonata by Scharwenka a composer whose chamber works have appeared on Hyperion: review We must all hope that a recording of the Scharwenka sonata will soon be issued by Mr Zemtsov or that it will be taken up by another company. Quite apart from anything else I would recommend that he looks long and hard at Arthur Benjamin’s wartime Viola Sonata (especially in its guise with orchestra) - a spirited work preoccupied with the sort of troubled emotional material and stormy conflict that marks out the Benjamin Symphony as one of the finest symphonies since Prokofiev 6.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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