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Lydia Mordkovitch plays Russian Works for Violin/Viola
Dimitri Borisovich KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Improvisation for violin and pianoA (1934) [04:54]
André Mikhaylovich VOLKONSKY (1933–2008)
Sonata for viola and pianoA (1955) [19:47]
Ivan Yevstafyevich KHANDOSHKIN (1747-1804)
Sonata for solo violinA ([26:03]
Sergei Sergeyevich PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Five Pieces from Cinderella for violin and pianoA [18:43]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Chanson russe (Russian Song) for violin and pianoB [03:45]
Danse russe (Russian Dance) for violin and pianoB [02:43]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin/viola); Nicholas Walker (piano)A; Julian Milford (piano)B
rec. 21-23 November 1998 (Stravinsky), 3-4 October 2008 (all other works) at Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10526 [76:07] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


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 (1760). 

First 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. 

Volkonsky 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. 

Born 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. 

The 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. 

The 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. 

Lydia 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. 

An appealing and fascinating mix of rare and popular Russian repertoire for violin/viola and piano.

Michael Cookson



 
 


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