Leonid NIKOLAYEV (1878-1942)
Sonata for violin and piano, Op.11
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 in D Major, Op.94
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Suite (Sonata) in the Old Style, for violin and piano
Chavdar Parashkevov (violin), Natasha Kislenko (piano)
rec. Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall, Fresno, CA, USA, February 2010
CHAVDAR MUSIC [no number given] [60:25]

While there are many recordings of Prokofiev’s violin sonata and several of Schnittke’s this is the first time I’ve come across the violin sonata by Leonid Nikolayev. He was a professor at the Leningrad Conservatory where his pupils included Shostakovich, Maria Yudina and Vladimir Sofronitsky. Shostakovich regarded him highly, dedicating the Piano Sonata no.2 to his former teacher and speaking warmly of him. The Violin Sonata, written in 1903 is a rewarding work of great beauty. Its opening movement has the main theme introduced at the very outset. This is both dramatic and anxious until the piano calms things down somewhat. This happens on several occasions while the violin seems determined to return to its agitated state each time. The slow movement is quite gorgeous with an achingly heartfelt melancholy tune dominant throughout. The third and final movement is a wonderfully flashy tarantella that belies its Russian origin, the music dancing its way to an exciting conclusion.
Prokofiev is one of those composers whose music is immediately recognisable. His second violin sonata is no exception with his typically fascinating tunes refusing to follow the path you expect. Originally written for flute and piano it was David Oistrakh who suggested to Prokofiev that he turn it into a violin sonata. This he did with remarkably little revision. It is difficult now to imagine it as anything else. Rich melodies abound in the first movement while the second is witty in that puckish way for which Prokofiev was famous. The third movement reverts to reflective mode with a bittersweet melody that has the violin trying to reach upwards in an almost imploring way. The finale marked Allegro con brio is happy for the most part but still has introspective overtones.
If the name of Alfred Schnittke means ‘difficult’ or ‘ultra modern’ to you then this work will show you another side of his personality. It is, as the title says, in the Old Style and bears none of Schnittke’s famous morbidity. On the contrary, it is exuberant and effervescent and fairly bubbles along. The suite is a reworking of Schnittke’s music from several films. It’s mainly in the neo-classical and baroque styles. The whole work is full of fun and shows Schnittke had another side to his rather morose appearance. It is highly inventive and convincingly ‘classical’. The suite is divided into five ‘movements’ taken from three films. These are entitled Pastorale,Ballet,Minuet,Fugue,Pantomime. It is delightful. The work has seen the piano part successfully transposed for harpsichord, string orchestra and percussion ensemble.
Chavdar Parashkevov is a Bulgarian violinist whose virtuosity is in no doubt if this disc is anything to go by. He had the distinction of having his 2005 disc Moto Perpetuo which he recorded with pianist Vessela Gintcheva played aboard the space shuttle Atlantis during its mission to the Hubble telescope! He is currently a member of the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet Orchestras. The disc is from Chavdar Music which is obviously his own creation. Unusually there is no catalogue number or details of timings of the works. His pianist here is Russian Natasha Kislenko who is a member of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra and a talented and worthy partner.
As a disc of violin sonatas this is extremely enjoyable and does great service to the three works and especially in introducing a wider audience to the sonata by Nikolayev.
Steve Arloff 

As a disc of violin sonatas this is extremely enjoyable.