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Crotchet

Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943) Sonata for Cello and Piano (1901) arranged for viola by Vadim Borisovsky [34.51]*
Vocalise Op.34 No.14 (1912 revised 1915) arranged for violin/viola and piano by Yuri Zhislin [6.08]*
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Violin Sonata in E flat Op.18 (1887) [29.16]
Yuri Zhislin (violin and viola*)
George-Emmanuel Lazaridis (piano)
Recorded at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow, London, January 2005
SOMM CD046 [70.37]

Two ripe Romantic sonatas are here but one of them travels disguised. The Rachmaninov Cello Sonata was arranged for viola by Vadim Borisovsky and is duly performed on that instrument by Yuri Zhislin. He then performs the Rachmaninoff Vocalise on both violin and viola (overdubbed when playing unison) and drops gadgetry for a run-through of the Strauss Sonata on his accustomed fiddle.
 
The Strauss is a gorgeously ripe effusion, not unlike the First Horn Concerto in its chest-bursting lyricism. It can take restraint but most players will want to plunge straight in. Here I feel a discrepancy between Zhislin and his excellent partner George-Emmanuel Lazaridis; the former’s relative reticence and restraint tend to come into a degree of conflict with the latter’s more openly romantic instincts in this work. It can make for creative results. Nevertheless I was more drawn to pianist than violinist on rather too many occasions and that is a little more worrying. Some of Zhislin’s expressive devices in the first movement sound, to my ears, a shade disbelieving; the temperature is consistently low. Comparison with Heifetz/Brooks Smith and Heifetz/Sandor, not to mention Ricci/Bussotti (now there was an entertaining pianist) and Neveu/Beck, tends to make the case for this newcomer’s excessive caution. Let me just close by saying that Zhislin does not do enough with the line in the second movement to keep things, as Lionel Tertis once put it, “alive” and that the over cautious opening to the finale is fatally deadpan. Where is Neveu’s exultance, Heifetz’s burnished throb, and Ricci’s devilry? Still, if you’re sated by overt violinstics and prefer low-wattage maybe Zhislin is your man.
 
The Rachmaninoff is really as much a calling card of Zhislin’s credentials as a violist as it is a must-have performance. After all why not just pick up the Cello Sonata, something I always feel about the rather more tonally distinct Franck Violin/Cello sonata arrangement. Zhislin displays the same qualities of restraint and a certain dignified reserve here and is certainly not a player to wear his heart on anything resembling a sleeve. Still his playing is expert in its way and again the ensemble is good. Lazaridis tends to steal the show, not least in his Rach 2 intimations in the first movement and in the gallop of the scherzo. The Vocalise arrangement is an amusing encore and affectionately done.
 
There are trilingual notes. The recording is very slightly cloudy but I wouldn’t make too much of it. The programme is well constructed but its romantic instincts are not really fully met.
 
Jonathan Woolf 
 

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Crotchet

 

 


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