Here are three tunefully grateful Russian violin
concertos from the 1940s.
The Rakovís undulating topography is sweetly
intoned by Hardy who plays a Cremona Guadagnini of 1793. Itís
a romantic work steeping lightly between the worlds of Glazunovís
lissom concerto and something very close to Hollywood. Thereís
a lush and lissom autumnal Andante after the 14 minute
Allegro first movement. This is followed by a flashing blade
of a finale which is pointedly thrust forward, turned, swung
and parried by Hardy, Dudarova and her orchestra. Thereís a
touch of Prokofuievís First Violin Concerto about this engaging
Rakov was a pupil of Gliere. He became a leading
member of the Moscow Conservatoire staff and taught Gennady
Rozhdestvensky, Elena Firsova, Boris Tchaikovsky and Karen Khachaturian
(the nephew of Aram). His works include three symphonies, two
piano concertos and two violin concertos.
We are on more familiar soil with the Kabalevsky
concerto which is in fact his only one for violin. It is one
of a trilogy of concertos for Soviet Youth. The others are Cello
Concerto No. 1 (1949) and the Third Piano Concerto (1953) which
was premiered by the 14 year old Vladimir Ashkenazy. It is positive,
fluent, exciting and registers its emotional message without
evasion. Like the Rakov it has a dreamy central movement before
diving into a playful Vivace giocoso with sparkling Cossack
rhythms and considerable unsubtle brilliance.
Vissarion Shebalin was a pupil of Miaskovsky
and became director of the Moscow Conservatory (1942-1948).
His Violin Concerto is a more nuanced work than the other two.
It deals in half-lights, tragedy, protest, brutality and fury.
No wonder he attracted official criticism. He was far from being
an ecstatic but he was evidently a free-thinker whose freed
thoughts turned to gloom and found satisfaction in the expression
of the ascent into sunlight. Towards the end of the first movement
the music takes on a scorching redolence of Shostakovich. The
middle movement is no dreamy pre-echo of the Rakov or Kabalevsky.
Shebalin calls up a meditation on beauty in some lightless kingdom.
After two such movements the composer turns a more optimistic
page for the Rondo finale with what you might think of as a
playful synthesis of the Glazunov and the Miaskovsky concertos.
Three fascinating works. The Rakov and Kabalevsky
have more in common with each other than with the Shebalin.
All of these works are ones you should really get to know if
you enjoy the more famous concertos by Prokofiev and Miaskovsky.
None of them are in the Shostakovich league though the Shebalin
sometimes comes closest but itís not that close.
The recording has an ideal balance of detail
and impact from both orchestra and soloist.
Good liner notes by Per Skans.
You might be interested in comparing this with
another Soviet Violin Concerto collection
on the new deleted Russian Revelation label.
Letís have more reissues like this please Regis.
Meantime snap up this delectably lyrical and completely unhackneyed
collection and wonder whether Hardy might return to record other
rare Soviet concertos of the period 1930-60.