Soviet Russian Viola Music
Vladimir KRYUKOV (1902-1960)
Viola Sonata Op.15 (1919-21; 1933) [12:42]
Sergei VASILENKO (1872-1956)
Viola Sonata Op.46 (1923) [18:40]
Grigory FRID (b.1915)
Viola Sonata Op.62 No.1 (1971) [14:02]
Yulian KREIN (1913-1996)
Viola Sonata (1973) [11:21] ¹
Valerian BOGDANOV-BEREZOVSKY (1903-1971)
Viola Sonata Op.44 (1956) [17:24] ¹
Igor Redotov (viola)
Leonid Vechkhayzer (piano)
Gary Hammond (piano) ¹
rec. March-April 2007, St Petersburg Recording Studio and at First Baptist Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan (Krein, Bogdanov-Berezovsky)
NAXOS 8.572247 [74:37]
One of the many strands being pursued by the omnivorous Naxos label at the moment is the viola repertoire. They have a number of outstanding exponents on their books - one thinks of Martin Outram and Heinrich Koll for instance, both of whose discs I’ve reviewed - and now we have Igor Redotov who proselytizes with fervour on behalf of twentieth century Soviet or Russian or ‘Soviet Russian’ music.
This is fine retrieval work. It’s always dangerous to quote a label’s ‘world premiere recording’ status claim because some obscure LP will be duly brandished to contradict it. I’ve done it myself in reviews, raking over some obscure American Columbia tricolour 78 made in 1923 to dispute such a claim, in that pedantic, pernickety way of mine.
But until one hears to the contrary the Kryukov, Krein and Bogdanov-Berezovsky are making their first ever appearance on disc in these first class performances. The music spans the years from 1920 - when Kryukov started his Sonata, though it was revised in 1933 - to Krein’s 1973 work. So there’s a good half century covered, in a birth span from 1872 (Vasilenko) to 1915; Frid, who is still alive at the time of writing.
Kryukov studied with Miaskovsky and subsequently became a professor of composition himself. His Viola Sonata was written around 1919-21 (there’s a dispute between the booklet notes and the jewel case) and definitively revised in 1933. One can feel something of Miaskovsky’s influence in its lyricism, so too something of the French school and of Scriabin. It’s a one movement work, and concise, and manages to balance the tempestuous with Romantic effusion very successfully. It was dedicated to Vadim Borisovsky, one of the giants of Russian viola players, and he was also the dedicatee of Sergei Vasilenko’s sonata. It too is cast in one movement though it’s clearly divided fast-slow-fast fugal. This is a charming work though not one that sought to grasp the nettle of modernism. It has a Grieg-like freshness and passages that could have come straight from Kreisler’s Pugnani pastiche.
Frid’s sonata was written in 1971. Melancholic and a touch remote, its central moment offers a powerful contrast by virtue of its attaca vivacity. This, itself touched by something more than a little manic, is urgent, destabilising and wholly tonal. The slow finale is very expressive with an improvisatory sense and an almost vocalised wash of lyricism, in which the viola finally ascends to a hard won silence. A couple of years later Yulian Krein wrote a sonata that has easeful warmth about it. Plenty of energetic figuration drives it on, and whilst there are some Scriabinesque moments the overriding melos is a tuneful, very traditional lyricism. It’s dance patterns however that act as the motor for the last of the quintet of viola sonatas. This is Bogdanov-Berezovsky’s three movement opus which alternates energetic and terse writing to advantage - even to the extent of causing Redotov to grunt in the fray. The theme and variations central movement has variety and elegance, and a whirlwind quality of vitality that leads onto the final, quiescent movement.
The five sonatas are played with urgent and powerful commitment by Redotov and his two colleagues, Leonid Vechkhayzer and Gary Hammond. Naxos’s recorded sound, in the two venues, is highly sympathetic. These somewhat obscure works are well worth getting to know.
Jonathan Woolf