White Nights - Viola music from St. Petersburg
Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Selection from Preludes Op. 34 (arr. viola and piano by E. Strachov) (1932-3) [10:38]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Sonata in D minor for viola and piano (1825-8) [16:22]
(completed by W. Michel and V. Borisovsky)
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Elegy Op. 44 for viola and piano (1893) [5:58]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
a) Elegy for viola solo (1944) [5:37]
b) Russian Song from the opera Mavra (arr. viola and piano by K. Oznobishev) (1921-2) [4:00]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
a) Song of the Indian guest from Sadko (arr. for viola and piano by E. Strachov) (1896) [4:15]
b) Dance of the Buffoons from The Snow Maiden (arr. for viola and piano by E. Strachov) (1881) [3:48]
Piotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Valse sentimentale, Op. 51 No. 6 (arr. for viola and piano by V. Borisovsky) (1882) [6:11]
Tatjana Masurenko (viola)
Roglit Ishay (piano)
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 16-19 February 2010
The Shostakovich Preludes which open this recital disc are arranged from his 24 Preludes Op. 34, for piano. They work well on viola and piano and Ms. Masurenko and Ms. Ishay display wonderful artistry while admirably characterising their extremely diverse moods. In the first movement of the early Glinka Viola Sonata she and Ms. Ishay are free, occasionally self-conscious and mannered. I prefer the less introspective, more classical performance by Maxim Rysanov and Evelyn Chang on Avie. The completion (Vadim Borisovsky, 1932) refers to the second movement only. Glinka planned a finale, but the piece is well worth hearing as it stands. There is little enough chamber music by Glinka. The Glazunov Elegy, which will be familiar to many viola-players, is played with the utmost sensitivity, the animato and agitato indications well observed and providing necessary contrast in what might otherwise seem a fairly bland piece. Of the two Stravinsky pieces, the solo viola Elegy receives one of the most lucid performances I have heard, while the Russian song fromMavra - the first aria from this one-act opera buffa - is one of those pieces that may haunt you for days. The two Rimsky-Korsakov arrangements are strongly contrasting, while the Tchaikovsky arrangement of a piano piece is most seductively played.
It is perhaps a pity that a modern CD of music for viola and piano should mainly consist of arrangements - 11 out of 14 pieces - when there is such a wealth of contemporary repertoire.
However, given the theme of this CD, perhaps it was inevitable. Noting that this is billed as “Volume One”, I hope that major works such as the Shostakovich Viola Sonata might be forthcoming. The presentation of this disc as White Nights - Viola Music from St. Petersburg is acceptable enough, but the notes by Julia Smilga strain too hard to find connections. For instance, the Nutcracker Waltz is irrelevantly cited in connection with the Tchaikovsky arrangement which ends the CD. Nevertheless, this is a highly enjoyable disc, a varied selection of Russian pieces beautifully performed. Ms. Masurenko has what might be described as an attractively light, clear, slightly feathery tone, not at all nasal or boomimg.  

Philip Borg-Wheeler 

A highly enjoyable disc.