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Mikhail Zemtsov
Gerstkamp 131
2592CR Den Haag

The Last Rose of Summer
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Sonata for viola and piano [27.50]
Michael RADULESCU (b.1943)
Sonata for viola solo [10.32]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Recitative and Scherzo Caprice for viola solo [4.05]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Desire, Mazurka, Prelude for viola and piano [4.24]
Mikhail KUGEL (b.1946)
Prelude Ysa˙e for viola solo [4.09]
Evgeni ZEMTSOV (b.1940)
Melodia for viola and piano [4.01]
Wilhelm ERNST (1814-1865)
The Last Rose of Summer for viola solo arranged Mikhail Kugel [10.20]
Mikhail Zemtsov (viola)
Irina Shishkina (piano)
Recorded live at Castle Duivenvoorde, November 2004
Henri CASADESUS (1879-1947)
Concerto for Viola – attributed HANDEL, First movement
Dana Zemtsov (viola)
Unattributed piano accompaniment
Recorded when Dana Zemtsov was twelve years old
STEMRA NA 5001CD [73.29]



This is rather an unusual souvenir of a concert given at Castle Duivenvoorde in the Netherlands in November 2004. There are no notes regarding the music though there is a biography of the well-travelled violist. As a pendant there’s also a performance of the first movement of the amiable Casadesus forgery (here still sporting its Handelian camouflage) given by what I assume is Zemtsov’s daughter, the then twelve-year-old Dana.

Zemtsov is the principal violist of the Residence Orchestra in the Hague and also of the New European Strings. His previous positions as principal have taken to Norway and Mexico and earlier still he was a prizewinner in Vienna and Hamburg. His programme is a demanding one and also unusual in that the Rubinstein sonata is followed by a series of testing pieces, some of which are new to me. The recording isn’t especially helpful in that accentuates a clanginess in the piano, hard, somewhat metallic, and gives a bit of spread to the viola sound. Still, Zemtsov is an assertive deep toned violist who’s not afraid to roughen that tone in the interests of drama. The Rubinstein responds quite well to this doughty approach, especially in the Andante once past a few pianistic problems, though some of the passagework in the finale is a bit effortful.

Radulescu’s Sonata opens up interesting spatial questions. The violist initially sounds distant, then becomes progressively more present. He explores register changes, pizzicato passages and writes quite strenuously for the solo viola, though allowing motoric paragraphs. The internal “dialogue” between registers (at speed) is the most charismatic moment an most attractively done by the intrepid soloist. Kugel’s Prelude Ysa˙e pays dramatic and insistent homage and Evgeni Zemtsov (the violist’s father?) has written an attractive Melodia. The Kreisler is heard in the viola transcription as is the wrist dislocating Ernst, one of the most merciless works in the violin repertoire let alone in this viola transcription by Kugel. In the circumstances Zemtsov acquits himself well.

I suspect this disc may prove rather hard to track down. There are extraneous noises and some odd balances throughout but these are the invariable casualties of a live recording. Zemtsov is a bold player with wide interests in the viola’s literature.

Jonathan Woolf



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