Gidon Kremer plays 20th century composers
CD 1
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op. 80 [30:00]
Scherzo, vivacissimo, from Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major Op. 19 (transcription for violin and piano) [4:05]
Sonata for Two Violins in C major Op. 56 [16:14]
Ladislav KUPKOVIC (b.1936) Souvenir [4:23]

CD 2
Kara KARAYEV (1918-1982) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra [19:21]
Vadim SALMANOV (1912-1978) Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 [14:18]
Arnold SCHOENBERG Fantasy for Violin and Piano. [7:45]
Anton WEBERN Four Pieces Op. 7 1910 [4:26]
Karl-Heinz STOCKHAUSEN Tierkreis excerpts (Aquarius, Gemini, Pisces, Libra, Sagittarius, Leo, Aquarius) [9:03]

CD 3
Vladimir MARTYNOV (b.1946) Come in! for violin and ensemble [30:34]
Arthur-Vincent LOURIÉ (1892-1996) Concerto da Camera for Violin and String Orchestra [30:04]
Gidon Kremer (violin)
Oleg Maisenberg (piano); Maria Bondarenko (piano); Yuri Smirnov (piano); Tatiana Grindenko (violin II in Martynov); Mikhael Muntyan (celesta in Martynov); German Chamber Philharmonic Society/Gidon Kremer; Moscow Philharmonic Society Soloists/Vladimir Kozhukar; USSR State TV and Radio Symphony Orchestra/Yuri Bashmet.
rec. live, 1967, 1970, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1988, 1990, 1992. ADD
Historic Russian Archive Edition
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9242 [3 CDs: 54:42 + 54:53 + 60:38]

These recordings from Kremer’s long-distant Soviet years were made for radio broadcast use. Audiences are present – sometimes unmistakably so. They have been licensed to Brilliant Classics by Gostelradiofund. They bear out Kremer’s repute as an artist who drives the priests of convention and received wisdom from the temple. They are as vivid as fear and as sharply etched as a smashed pane. His Prokofiev Sonata No. 1 combines a raw and rasping grip with real tenderness of touch and tenderness. There is some extraordinarily delicate and quiet playing from Oleg Maisenberg and Kremer; this is magnificent in the skeletal third movement. Kremer and Yuri Smirnov almost makes you forget the orchestral witchery of the First Violin Concerto. Kremer is joined by Tatiana Grindenko (Kremer’s wife) in the black seduction of the Sonata for Two Violins. Kupkovic’s Souvenir (1971) is a really toothsome little miniature, redolent of Sibelius’s Humoresques with a dash or two of Kreisler and circus high-wire.

Karayev has been recorded by Naxos, Russian Revelation and Azerbaijan International. Russian Disc has also recorded his delightfully imaginative ballet scores as has Delos on DRD 2009. His Violin Concerto has grown on me since I first reviewed it in 1999. It is a work of Bergian dissonance that in its textures is tissuey yet overwhelmingly intense and romantic in the manner of the Walton, Schuman and Frankel concertos. In the finale it blitzes along with jagged, blood-curdling energy. His 1965 Third Symphony is reportedly dissonant. There are at least three recordings including the Naxos. There is also a Melodiya LP of his World War II First Symphony (1943) but the Second (1946) awaits its first recording. It would be good to hear and appraise these two works.

Vadim Salmanov is best known for his four symphonies recorded by Mravinsky. His Second Violin Sonata is from 1962. The music gives the impression of having been stropped to an excoriating razor edge. The final Presto has the eldritch, wildly sprayed corrosive acid of a Prokofiev scherzo … and then some: jazz and sulphuric acid.

Kremer is well suited to Schoenberg’s dissonant Fantasy op. 47 in all its rasping drama and mercurial waywardness. The notes tell us that the Fantasy was written in Los Angeles. Webern’s four super-short wispy miniatures are delicate yet murderous waifs. CD2 ends with some Stockhausen: seven of the twelve movements entitled Tierkreis or Zodiac. It’s for two violins and is music of the finest filigree thread with distinct Japanese twists and turns. Fleeting moments suggest a link with Hovhaness.

The last disc sets out two works of substance and ambition. Vladimir Martynov was initially something of an avant-gardista. He wrote a rock opera St Francis of Assisi for his rock group Boomerang! After studying the folk music of the Caucasus, exploring Russian Orthodox chant and researching theology and philosophy his music underwent a Damascene conversion. Thus his 1988 Come in! is a six-movement half-hour violin concerto. The strings and the violin contemplate beauty in tones very redolent of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Add to this sparse and completely consonant punctuation from celesta and percussion. One may occasionally think of Pachelbel’s Canon and the prayerfully meditative aspects of Bruch No. 1. Again an audience is obviously present and its applause is preceded by spoken words - what I take to be the “Come in!” signalling the end of the work. As for the title it can be found in the words of Ioann Lestvichnik. It refers to the voice behind the door at the peak of the stairway to Heaven inviting the pilgrim soul to enter.

We know Lourié from another Brilliant Classics disc. His Concerto da Camera dates from his American years; he went there in 1941. It was his last orchestral work. It is played here by a German orchestra. Again it is in six movements. The music certainly has a chamber feel but other impressions crowd in: Schnittke’s aggressive neo-baroque and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, There’s a tender Intermezzo. The violin’s voice is piercingly immediate and keen as a razor when it is not caught in rapt contemplation. Hunted tension and drama come into play in the Epilogo. It all ends controversially in a baritonal murmur from the strings.

These three discs equate to CDs 7-9 from the 10-disc Brilliant Classics Kremer survey (8712).

The rather wonderful adorning notes are by Ates Orga – a Prince among writers about music. Here he is very much on form.

This is an intriguing and often refreshingly provocative collection.

Rob Barnett

Intriguing and often refreshingly provocative.