in mind that few people have heard of Khandoshkin, Naxos
cannot be blamed for trying to attract buyers with a CD
cover subtitle that manages to fit in the words, “virtuoso”, “violin”, “court”,
and “Catherine the Great”. This cleverly disguises the
fact that the disc mostly consists of an uncompromising
diet of unaccompanied solo violin music in the form of
the solo violin stakes Bach comes first, Paganini a long
way back in second, and the rest nowhere, so Naxos must
be congratulated for making available performances
that are worthy examples of the genre.
works for solo unaccompanied violin are often thought of
as profound, intimate, spiritual meditations whereas Paganini’s
are representative of what he as a performer could do to
wow audiences by pushing his instrument to its limits.
Khandoshkin’s sonatas, in style, content and chronology
come somewhere in between.
form in these “sonatas” is not much in evidence. In fact
the hefty first movement of the most ambitious one, No.
1 in G minor
, is in a rather unwieldy binary form
and the development that takes place is more associated
with variation technique rather than development in the
emerging classical manner of the time, the violin figurations
clearly deriving from Bach. There are though some surprising
emotional twists and turns that seem to show that Khandoshkin
was, like Beethoven, under the influence of Bach’s son,
Carl Philip Emanuel.
second movement allegro assai
is a remarkably inventive
piece, making much out of a simple repeating single note
motive employing a range of virtuoso techniques including
some vigorous multiple stopping. The last movement starts
as a pleasant set of variations but it is so relatively
long – 10 minutes – that it unbalances the sonata as a
whole. Half way through the movement I thought, “That’s
enough thank you”. Maybe this is psychological. Approach
it as a stand-alone set of variations and it would make
a good piece as part of a violin recital.
similar principle applies to the whole disc. I would not
recommend attempting to listen to it from start to finish.
Take one sonata at a time and there is much to enjoy. Khandoshkin
has a melodic gift as well as an ability to produce a seemingly
infinite range of textures and technical figurations that
prove him to be an important composer in the rarefied genre
of unaccompanied violin music.
additional work on the disc is a set of unaccompanied pieces
where a cello joins the violin - and in one case a viola.
It is a set of Russian folk songs each treated to variations.
As Kapellmeister to Catherine the Great, Khandoshkin is
here satisfying the demands of the court by being able
to display simultaneously elements of Russian nationalism
as well as what were thought of as advanced Western techniques.
The piece is a pleasing rarity.
playing of US domiciled, Russian born Anastasia
Khitruk I thought really admirable. She treats the music
with great respect with performances that are thoughtful,
steady but sinewy. Her formidable technique seems never
to be stretched but I would guess she put a great deal
of preparation into the disc. She must be congratulated
for taking considerable effort to bring music to light
that might otherwise have been forgotten.
see also reviews by Jonathan
Woolf and Glyn Pursglove