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Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G-Minor (1917) [13:57]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Sonatina for two violins (1920) [8:31]
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Duo for violin and cello, Op.7 (1914) [32:28]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Sonata for two violins in C Op. 56 (1932) [16:10]
Eduard Grach (violin)
Evgeni Grach (violin) (Prokofiev)
Valentin Zhuk (violin) (Honegger)
Evgeni Altman (cello) (Kodály)
Evgeni Malinin (piano) (Debussy)
rec. Moscow 1961 (Debussy); 1967 (Honegger); 1971 (Kodály) and 1985 (Prokofiev)
RUSSIAN COMPACT DISC RCD16212 [71:26]
Experience Classicsonline

My previous, most recent encounter with Russian violinist Eduard Grach was a masculine and powerful performance of the Brahms Concerto, eloquently marshalled by concerto accompanist supreme, Kondrashin (see review). Those for whom biographical matters are helpful, especially in the case of musicians whose names haven’t travelled as far as they should, might read that review for some brief pointers regarding Grach.
 
This other disc in RCD’s ‘Russian Violin School’ series is a sonata programme. We start with an occasionally ponderous and over vibrated Debussy. This is a tricky work that can trip up players who over-freight it with heightened expressive devices and lashings of vibrato. The first movement at least is all rather fraught, aggressive and un-Gallic. The very forward recording exaggerates Grach’s instincts. The second movement is ardent and taken at a good tempo but still rather too romanticised. Something odd happens in the finale where the sound spectrum recedes alarmingly. Not sure what happened there.
 
Grach was teamed with Valentin Zhuk for the Honegger Sonatina. They were both fellow Yamplosky students and good colleagues. They play with sparkling drive but it’s all too resinous, and their well-prepared vibrato bulges are too throbbing in the context, unsettling the line. Nevertheless their tonal qualities are well matched, and the witty pizzicati of the finale are well attended to. Certainly the ensemble is first class and they just about conquer the intonational traps in the final paragraphs. It’s a fighting performance but not really in the league of the Oistrakhs, father and son, whose own performance was both faster and tonally more malleable.
 
The Kodály Duo for violin and cello teams Grach with Evgeni Altman. There’s some succulently warm phrasing in this taxing work, some fine unison, ensemble patterns and a sure sense of the work’s architecture. It won’t efface memories of Heifetz-Piatigorsky, Suk-Navarra or Gingold-Starker but presents a warm, masculine united ensemble.
 
Finally we turn to the Prokofiev Sonata for two violins with the violinist’s son Evgeni as partner. Once again this is a rather resinous reading, acerbic and brittle – though in the context that’s not entirely inappropriate. This strong communicative power embraces expressive eloquence and technical assurance not least in the rustic abrasions of the Commodo. It’s a big boned, raw reading and one that is again slower pretty much all round than the Oistrakhs,  père et fils.
 
Putting the sonic considerations to one side these are committed examples of Grach’s masculine playing.
 
Jonathan Woolf

 

 


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