The main focus here, as the typography suggests, is Karel pelina.
Admirers of the Czech violist will know that he has a decent
sized discography ranging from Bach to Vanhal via Hindemith,
Honegger, Luká, Milhaud and Reicha. Now we have some more
to add, in the shape of radio performances of two sonatas and
Glazunov’s Elegy. Only the Shostakovich is dated with certainty
in the notes – 9 March 1976 to be exact – but they all come
from the period 1972-82.
Much is made of the fact that pelina’s broadcast predated
the Fyodor Druzhinin/Michael Muntyan Melodiya LP, though that’s
not really desperately interesting given that the Czech performance
was not a commercial recording. Of rather more importance, to
me at least, is the fact that his pianist, Russian-born, Moscow-trained
Lydia Majlingova did make a recording soon after the Druzhinin-Muntyan,
but with violist Milan Telecky on Rediffusion Aurora. This gives
a certain degree of authority to the performance and also suggests
an independence of the Russian model, which I assume is the
tacit point being made by Arco Diva in their notes. The duo
is a minute slower than the recent Robin Ireland/Tim Horton
duo on Nimbus [NI 6117] but tends to generate a greater weight
of anguish, and also to mine the phantom folkloric episodes
with greater vitality. Speed of vibrato and tonal colour is
astutely varied – and pelina locates a fragility as well
as a heart beat of hope in the music. He never overbows. It’s
a bit of a pity that the tape has some drizzle, and isn’t in
the best of nick, but it’s not disastrous.
The Mendelssohn Viola Sonata is hardly a favourite and wasn’t
published until 1966. But pelina and Karel Friesl dig
in with commendable warmth and spirit, finding an intense Adagio
introduction and varying dynamics to diminish the sometimes
by-rote nature of the writing. There’s plenty of tone and bite
in the Menuetto, but the best playing is reserved for the variations
Andante finale. The baroque tinged elements are meat and drink
to the violist, and he captures both the stentorian and noble
elements with captivating skill. The solo piano variation is
especially lovely too, and there’s plenty of flair from both
men in the coda.
The violist joins with a regular sonata partner, Josef Halá,
for Glazunov’s Elegy, which is phrased with great skill.
Given the provenance of these radio performances, and the nature
of the repertoire, this is really an artist-led release. It’s
fortunate then that pelina is an outstanding player.