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I have had to withdraw this from sale as supply from Russia was irregular.

Alexei LVOV (1796-1870)
Violin Concerto in A minor (In form of a dramatic scene) (1840) [19:14]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 54 (1901) [22:38]
Yuly CONIUS (1869-1942)
Violin Concerto in E minor (1896) [20:49]
Sergei Stadler (violin)
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladislav Tchernushenko (Lvov, Arensky); Vladimir Ponkin (Conius)
rec. Petersburg Recording Studio, 1986. ADD

The Moscow-based Manchester label have here revived a collection of twenty minute Russian violin concertos. These are comparatively obscure pieces that have had an existence only at the periphery of the repertoire. They first appeared under licence on the now defunct Olympia label.

The concerto by Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov is in three movements but here is presented, like the other two concertos, in a single track It is in the Beethoven camp but with infusions of Bellinian bel canto and an overlay of Lisztian display which is marginally overdone in the finale. There are also parallels with the numerous concertos of Spohr and de Beriot. By the way, Lvov also wrote the Imperial Russian Anthem: God Save the Tsar. There is also an opera Undine from 1846.

The Arensky is a world away from the early nineteenth century sentiments of Lvov. It is nowhere near as obscure having had several recordings over the years although they are hardly numerous. If Lvov is indebted to Beethoven then Arensky genuflects without shame before Tchaikovsky’s music. With the exception of the operas Arensky has had his music thoroughly recorded over the years. The most systematic of his champions has been Svetlanov who recorded three CDs worth as part of his Anthology of Russian Symphonic Music. The Violin Concerto has been recorded before this by Aaron Rosand for Vox and Alexei Trostiansky for Chandos. It is a work after Tchaikovsky’s style and orchestration. Many of its themes and their treatment follow his example. None of this stops it being highly attractive and the finale in particular is a triumph of almost casually engaging romance. You can think also of the Glazunov Violin Concerto as a blood brother in song to the Arensky. Do not expect the absolute heights but if you like Tchaikovsky then this concerto is certainly one you need to hear.

The Concerto by Conius has even more Tchaikovskian melodrama about it including a really stormy introduction. It is in one continuous span that falls into three sections played attacca: Allegro molto; Adagio; Allegro subito. There is a cadenza between the last two sections. It was premiered privately in Paris in a version for piano and violin by the composer and Ivan Galamian. Kreisler also took up the work as did Elman. It was however written as a vehicle for the composer and he toured with it widely. Most famously it was recorded by Heifetz with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by Izler Solomon. There are also said to be recordings by Perlman (EMI), David Garrett (DG) and Andrei Korsakoff (Russian Disc).

Yuly Conius (also seen as Conus and Konius) was born in Moscow where he taught until 1895. He was a life-long friend of Rachmaninov and often took part in trio concerts with him. Conius was the dedicatee of Rachmaninov’s two pieces Op. 6 for violin and piano. Julius's son Boris and Rachmaninov’s daughter Tatiana were married in 1932. Conius went to Paris in 1921 to teach at the Russian Conservatory but returned to the USSR at the start of the Second World War. He died in Moscow. There are a handful of salon pieces but apart from them and the Violin Concerto nothing else.

This disc seems to have been intended for the Russian market. Cyrillic text is predominant. There is some English - titles, track details, Stadler’s biography and various press encomia - but the notes about the composers and the concertos are in Cyrillic only.

Three compact Russian violin concertos; none of them at all well known. The Arensky is the most memorable but both the Conius and the Lvov have their moments. The Lvov should appeal to anyone at all curious about what was happening in Russia under the influence of Beethoven. Everything is played with fiery attention by Stadler and the recording is respectably clear.

Rob Barnett



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