For this disc Mordkovich has selected works from two of the biggest
names in Russian music combined with three relatively unknown
Russians. Four of the scores are for violin and piano; another
is for solo violin. She also turns her expertise to a single work
for viola and piano. On this recording Mordkovitch plays the ‘Kustendyke’
Stradivarius violin (1699) and a viola by C.F. Landolfi of Milan
up is Kabalevsky’s Improvisation. Completed
in 1934 from a similar period to his Symphony No. 2 in
C minor the single movement score started out as music
to the film Night of St. Petersburg. Then it became
a published concert piece with Joseph Szigeti being given
the responsibility for editing the violin part. In the Improvisation
one is immediately struck by the yearning and pleading
tones of the violin part. The piano communicates a serious
almost doom-laden tread. At 1.12-2.07 an absorbing conversation
of hope ensues. From 2:08 with the violin in its highest registers
the emotional intensity of the music gradually increases to
an optimistic climax.
was born to a Russian family during their temporary exile
in Geneva. Cast in four movements the Viola Sonata
was composed in 1955 the year after he was expelled from the
Moscow Conservatoire. This performance is claimed to be the
premiere recording. The opening movement is a Largo of
stark introspection. In the Allegretto quasi moderato,
a restless Scherzo-like movement, one senses sinister
undercurrents of fear and dark foreboding. Next comes a Toccata
in the manner of Prokofiev. It is exuberant music yet one
senses a slight reticence against all-out elation. At times
the scene felt suggestive of a callow newcomer to a foreign
land who gradually begins to gain confidence. The longest
of the movements is the Finale, which is marked
A tempo di parte prima and is entitled ‘Apolalerion’
which is translated as “Parting Song” in the booklet
notes. Eerie, more shadowy than dark, the affecting music
at times feels constrained from moving forward quicker. I
could easily envisage the scene of a hostage chained in a
cell gradually losing his spirit.
in 1747 Khandoshkin was born around the start of the classical
era. He was active at the Russian Imperial Court in St. Petersburg
and was for a period in the employment of Catherine the Great.
One of Khandoshkin’s six unaccompanied violin sonatas, the
Sonata in G minor follows a three movement design.
The opening movement Marcia - Maestoso which
is an impassioned lament reminded me immediately of J.S. Bach’s
Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. I was immediately
struck by the frivolity of the Allegro assai which
is infused with the spirit of the dance. Relentlessly moving
forward the soloist hardly has time for a breather. The score
closes with an extended Andante con variazioni. Here
the mournful Russian-flavoured theme is followed by a set
of six variations. Of a rather tedious if meditative quality
the overlong variations inhabit a far too similar sound-world.
Only at 12:43 does the tempo change to adopt the uplifting
tone of a peasant dance.
three act ballet Cinderella, Op 87 was composed by
Prokofiev in 1940/44 - a commission by the Kirov Ballet. The
premiere was given in 1945 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
Prokofiev made various arrangements including transcribing
a collection of Ten Pieces from Cinderella for piano.
It was from this score that Mikhail Fichtenholz arranged this
set of Five Pieces from Cinderella for violin
and piano for David Oistrakh. The opening piece is an
extended Waltz evocative of a 1930s scene: elegant
couples swirling around a dance floor in some European city.
Characteristically the composer adds a slightly bitter ingredient
to the generally cheerful proceedings. I enjoyed the spiky
rhythms in the Gavotte and in the Passepied
I was moved by the pent-up anger that borders on the furious.
The Winter Fairy is a dialogue between the violin and
piano where they cloak themselves in a blanket of warmth and
tenderness. With the dance-like rhythms of the final movement,
titled Mazurka, I was easily captivated by the appealing
and carefree high spirits. I was struck by the stunning violin
playing from Mordkovitch.
majority of Stravinsky’s scores for violin stem from the 1930s,
the time of his friendship with violinist Samuel Dushkin who
he was able to consult for advice. The most notable was neo-classical
Violin Concerto in D composed and premiered by Dushkin
and conducted by the composer in Berlin in 1931. Stravinsky
and Dushkin collaborated on several scores, two of which include
the Danse Russe and Chanson Russe contained
here. The Danse Russe (Russian Dance) is an
attractive arrangement. It was made by the duo in 1932 from
the original sketches for piano and orchestra that eventually
were developed into the ballet Petrushka. Mordkovitch
and Milford provide a heavy tread with the themes carrying
a distinct Jewish feel. From 1937 the Chanson Russe (Russian
Maiden’s Song or Parasha’s Aria) is Stravinsky
and Dushkin’s arrangement of an aria from the comic opera
Mavra. Having the advantage of a killer-theme this
is a wild and colourful peasant dance.
Mordkovitch is partnered by Nicholas Walker and Julian Milford
(for the two Stravinsky pieces). They are splendid throughout
with forthright and characterful playing. These felt like
well prepared interpretations, perceptive and showing considerable
insight. I must single out Mordkovitch’s intonation and timbre
which invite admiration. All the works were recorded in 2008
with the exception of the two Stravinsky scores from ten years
previously. The sound quality of the recordings from Potton
Hall is one of the finest I have heard on any release this
year. These are vividly clear with a pleasing balance. Overall
the presentation of this disc is first class.
appealing and fascinating mix of rare and popular Russian repertoire
for violin/viola and piano.