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Ivan Yevstafyevich KHANDOSHKIN (1747-1804)
Violin Sonata in G minor, Op.3, No.1 (published 1800-08) [19:58]
Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op.3, No.2 (published 1800-08) [13:12]
Violin Sonata in D major, Op.3, No.3 (published 1800-08) [13:09]
Six Old Russian Songs for Violin (c.1783): (No.1: Along the bridge, this bridge [5:16]*; No.2: Is this my fate, this fate? [3:15]+; No.3: Little dove why do you sit so sadly? [5:11]+; No.4: What happened and why? [3:01]+; No.5: Once I gathered golden sheaves [2:59]*; No.6: Once I was a young man [4:15]+)
Anastasia Khitruck (violin), Dimitry Yakubovski (viola)*, Kirill Yevtushenko (cello)+
rec. Melodiya Studios, St. Catherine’s Church, St.Petersburg, May 2005
NAXOS 8.570028 [70:17]


Khandoshkin isn’t quite such an unknown figure as is implied in the presentation of this CD – which carries the title ‘Virtuoso Violin Music at the Court of Catherine the Great’. He was the subject of a substantial book by Anne Mischakoff – Khandoshkin and the Beginning of Russian String Music (UMI Research Press) – published in 1983. That Mischakoff is presumably identical with the Anne Mischakoff Heiles who contributes the valuable booklet notes here. The three sonatas for unaccompanied violin were recorded by Alexander Chernov in 1994 and issued on Etcetera; a recording I haven’t heard. Still, it is true enough that his music hasn’t attracted the attention it probably deserves.

It is of interest for at least two reasons. The first is historical. Khandoshkin was perhaps the first native Russian violinist-composer to become a ‘star’ at a Russian court dominated by diasporic Italian masters, with one of whom, Tito Porta, Khandoshkin had studied. These three sonatas appear to be the only examples of the genre to have been written in Russia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A second, more important, reason for taking an interest in Khandoshkin’s music is that some of it is really rather good.

The three unaccompanied sonatas can be thought of, stylistically, as belatedly baroque in some ways, but more obviously as anticipations of Paganini. This area of Khandhoskin’s work belongs in a line that runs through J.S. Bach and Biber, and such figures as Tartini, Gavinié and Locatelli on its way to Paganini. There is little, to my ears, which is distinctively Russian in these sonatas - though the closing andante of the first sonata takes the form of variations on a Russian song and the last movement of the second sonata is apparently based on a Russian dance known as the khrovod. This is very colourful music, full of appoggiaturas, dotted rhythms, double and quadruple stoppings, insistent ostinatos, rapid scales, oddly proportioned phrases and unexpected harmonic leaps. There is a rather cold feeling to much of the music, more marked by glitter and virtuosity than by any great emotional or intellectual depths. But that is not to say more than that the sonatas, unsurprisingly, are not quite Bach; but they are interesting, challenging, intriguing works, and are given highly assured performances at the hands of Anastasia Khitruck, born in Moscow but largely trained in the U.S.A.

The Six Old Russian Songs are built on simple traditional melodies, richly ornamented by Khandoshkin. The dance rhythms of ‘Along the bridge’ affect an imitation of the balalaika at one point. ‘Is this my fate?’ is the melody used by Beethoven in the Razumovsky quartets. ‘Once I was a Young man’ is treated by Khandoshkin with a particularly fertile inventiveness and ‘Little dove why do you sit so sadly’ has something of that melancholy conventionally attributed to the Russian sensibility.

Anastasia Khitruk’s performance, throughout, is exemplary. Her technical command is very impressive and she brings great energy to the task; insofar as Khandoshkin’s music allows it, her playing is also marked by its emotional sensitivity.

A very worthwhile and enjoyable disc, even if it plumbs no great depths. Khitruk is surely a violinist of whom we shall hear much more.

Glyn Pursglove

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf


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see The Solo Violin Music of Ivan Khandoshkin by Anastasia Khitruk



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