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The Art of Yulian Sitovetsky
Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in a minor, op. 77 (1948) [34:22]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto in d minor (1940) [34:27]
Yulian Sitkovetsky (violin)
USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Gauk (Shostakovich); Aram Khachaturian
rec. 1956, recording locations not given.
ARTEK AR-0031-2 [68:49]

Yulian Sitkovetsky (1925-1958) enjoyed a tremendous reputation as a violin virtuoso from a very early age. Alas, like his American counterpart Michael Rabin, death claimed him at an equally early age when he succumbed to lung cancer at only thirty-three. Thankfully, he left behind a number of recordings, many of them from live concerts, and they are now being lovingly restored and preserved by his son, the equally respected violinist, Dmitry. This disc is the fifth volume of the series and contains superb concert recordings of two of the twentieth centuryís major violin concertos.
This being a Shostakovich year (2006), there has been no shortage of recordings of this famous composerís music hitting the shelves, and for me, this trend has provided ample opportunity to listen anew, and to re-evaluate his work. I must say that it is been an extremely worthwhile undertaking.
The sense of melancholy that is prevalent in Shostakovichís music has been discussed to death, and we are all pretty much aware of the trying circumstances through which the composer lived most of his life. I shanít belabor the fact that his music is often full of turmoil and angst, and that much of what he wrote was in one way or another some veiled form of protest against the totalitarian Soviet state. What I have instead found as I have slowly worked my way through a large part of Shostakovichís output, is a deep sense of inner beauty, a way with melody and harmony that beneath the outward shell of anger and distress, came to the surface as radiant serenity and conviction.
The violin concerto of 1948 is no exception to these discoveries. Yes, at times it is a dark piece of music and there is richness to the writing that reflects the composerís difficult circumstances. But if you set the manís tribulations aside for a bit and simply listen to the music for its own sake, you will find long passages of sweeping beauty that not only induce empathy, but move you deeply in their honest expressions of the human condition.
Khachaturian, on the other hand seemed not to have the same emotional burdens as his contemporary. He was able to play along with the authorities in such a way as to keep the powers that be happy and still compose music that was full of an affirming, joyous spirit. From the opening, rollicking theme of the violin concerto, we are set dancing by its intensely rhythmic melodic figures. The slow movement is at times poetic and at others rhapsodic, and the virtuoso finale is breathtaking.
Yulian Sitkovetskyís early passing is truly a loss to the world of music, and we must be grateful for these volumes of his work. He plays with remarkable precision and intonation, and a warm and sensuous tone. Interpretively, he is a master, and the deep sense of commitment and passion that he brings to the music swiftly belies his youth. Although these recordings show their age a bit, and the live recording setting is not totally ideal, we still are quickly caught up in the masterful music making that is on display here. These may not be the audiophile first choice of many readers, but these are performances that are not to be missed, regardless of your taste for sonic perfection.
Notes are mostly biographical, and the packaging is rather pedestrian, but no matter. There are lots of sources to read concerning the works and their composers. This is a disc that has accomplished what any good recording should: it has set me to seeking out more of the same.
Kevin Sutton




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