Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Märchenbilder Op.113 (1851) [15:07]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Lachrymae (1950) [13:44]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Viola Sonata Op.147 (1975) [33:00]
Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola)
Katya Apekisheva (piano)
rec. October 2010, Music Room, Champs Hill

This is a finely constructed recital that tests the mettle, both expressive and technical, of both musicians. Krzysztof Chorzelski, violist of the Belcea Quartet, is an experienced chamber musician and soloist, and one who turned to the instrument in his 20s after having begun as a violinist. Readers may remember the name of pianist Katya Apekisheva, whose recording of Grieg’s solo piano music caused quite a stir and garnered plenty of awards.
They make a first class ensemble partnership, and calibrate Schumann’s Märchenbilder with rich, well balanced sensitivity. They adopt the ‘nicht schnell’ ruling of the first of the four and convey the Sturm and Drang of the Rasch third movement with considerable vehemence and intensity. The ruminative and melancholic slow final panel is played with lovely tone.
Britten’s Lachrymae offers very real challenges to musicians and an avoidance of splintering the music is just one of them. Tempo relationships between the variations need to be secure, otherwise things become too volatile, with slow sections lying too wanly alongside more abrasive ones. I’ve always thought a fairly brisk tempo ensures that the work’s mechanics are not imperilled. That’s just what we get here; a structure-conscious, taut and intelligent reading, tonally flexible, finely balanced throughout. The pizzicato variation – or ‘reflection’ in the composer’s word – is especially well done but so too is the gaunt intensity elsewhere encountered. There’s plenty of introspection and a richly unfolded final statement of Dowland’s song that emerges doubly eloquent for having been revealed so commandingly and without any false sentiment.
Britten’s friend Shostakovich wrote a crowning statement at the very end of his life, a Viola Sonata of profound introspection but also tense dance motifs. Once again we find the duo adopting a forward-moving, quite terse but tonally expressive position strongly removed from that of, say, Bashmet and Muntian in their famous RCA Classics disc (09026612732). Not only is the newcomers’ performance fleeter, it’s also somewhat less overtly introspective, less pointillist in the first movement – thus correspondingly a touch less detailed phrasally. The strong folk-dance motifs of the central scherzo are excellently realised, though few can match Bashmet’s suave bowing and sardonic incision here. It’s Bashmet’s ability to play really quietly that gives his finale so powerful and concentrated a charge and to vest phrases with so many variety of colours. Chorzelski is again quite a lot faster, but his consistency is a virtue and it accords with his approach as a whole which is agile and unmired in overt melancholia.
These three very different works form a very worthwhile programme. Chorzelski and Katya Apekisheva are an extremely sensitive team and they have been very well recorded.
Jonathan Woolf

Three very different works played by an extremely sensitive team and very well recorded.