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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonatensatz – F.A.E sonata. Scherzo WoO 2 in C minor (1853) - arranged Maxim Rysanov [5:20]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)

Viola Sonata in D minor (1825-28) [15:10]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)

Concert Piece (1906) [9:01]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)

Pensiero (1908) [4:26]
Allegro appassionato (1908) [2:45]
Cesar FRANCK (1822-1890)

Violin Sonata in A minor (1886) – viola part arranged by Maxim Rysanov [27:06]
Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b.1980)

Whispered Lullaby (2004) [4:24]
Maxim Rysanov (viola)
Evelyn Chang (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, August 2006
AVIE AV2111 [68:34]

Violist Maxim Rysanov is an increasingly visible presence on the international concert circuit. With his colleague, the fine pianist Evelyn Chang, he’s constructed a versatile programme crowned with his own arrangement of the Franck Violin Sonata.

First though he has to get around the thickets of the Brahms Sonatensatz, once again in his own arrangement. This seems to me to be the least convincing performance of the disc. It’s not necessarily that it’s intrinsically an ungrateful piece to transcribe to the viola – though it does sound it – so much as Rysanov’s aggressive and nasal playing. He’s also rather shrill in the upper register but proves much better at Brahms’s legato demands.

He takes on two of Bridge’s morceaux – ones that are increasingly paired on disc by adventurous violists. Paul Coletti and Leslie Howard (Helios CDH55085) started this trend if memory serves. The older performance is better at exploring the syntax of Pensiero. At a slower speed the Rysanov-Chang duo fail to phrase with optimal perception and can be over-forceful. Allegro appassionato is finely played but ultimately lacks the qualities of quicksilver incision and nervous energy that so distinguish the Coletti-Howard collaboration. I enjoyed this performance of Enescu’s 1906 Concert Piece, perhaps better known as the Konzertstück. The Avie duo take a rather more portentous view of it than did the Westphal-Swann team on Bridge 9109. The Bridge duo is more ready with a smile than the Avie but the newer reading benefits from a fine recording and warm strong colours.

I wouldn’t put the younger man above Bashmet’s recording of the two-movement Glinka Sonata but he performs with power and strength. It’s a shame that Vadim Borisovsky, who edited this work, never left behind a recording. For the Franck Rysanov has produced a blend of the violin and cello versions. The performance absorbs the necessary octave jumps quite creditably though it’s always an ear-popping moment – as in the similar concessions in the Elgar-Tertis Viola (Cello) Concerto. But though Chang strives hard she can’t quite lessen the ferocious demands of the piano writing in the Allegro.

Finally there’s Whispered Lullaby written by the young Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova. This was dedicated to Rysanov for whom she has also written a concerto for Viola and strings. Gentle and sinuous and with an absorbing cadential passage it makes for a warm envoi.

A good calling card for the Rysanov-Chang duo – excellently engineered as well though sufficiently closely to catch viola sniffs. The notes are brief.

Jonathan Woolf


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