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North Pacific Music
Voices of Eastern Europe
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Sonata No.3 for piano and violin, op.25 In the Popular Romanian Character (1933) [26:29]
Myroslav SKORYK (b.1938)
Sonata No.2 for violin and piano (1990) [15:21]
Arno BABAJANIAN (1921-1983)
Sonata for violin and piano (1963) [27:18]
Igor Veligan (violin), Natsuki Fukasawa (piano)
rec. Capistrano Music Recital Hall, California State University, Sacramento, California, USA (date not given)
NORTH PACIFIC MUSIC NPM LD 037 [69:04]

George Enescu is perhaps best known for his Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, a whirlwind orchestral piece that shows off all the characteristic sounds that one associates with Romania - its folk and gypsy traditions so closely intertwined. Composer, pianist, violinist, conductor as well as teacher - particularly famous for tutoring Yehudi Menuhin - Enescu wore his Romanian heritage on his musical sleeve; why wouldn’t you when the traditions are so rich and exciting.
 
The booklet notes say the sonata for piano and violin was composed in 1926. The bracketed date after its title is given as 1933 so perhaps it waited for seven years before being premièred. The notes also say that Enescu himself recorded it with no less a pianist than Dinu Lipatti; now that would be an exciting disc to hear. In it he brilliantly evokes those national melodies with the bow sliding up and down the strings in true gypsy style. It recalls the musicians one can still hear today playing in restaurants in that country as well as in Hungary with the piano often called upon to mimic the ţambal (cimbalom/dulcimer).
 
Myroslav Skoryk was born in Ukraine in 1938 and was at one time taught by Kabalevsky. His Sonata No.2 for violin and piano was written in 1989 and is spare in its composition though sweet in tone. The first movement is quite sad in atmosphere though quite beautiful. It has a short section in which piano and violin seem to be chasing each other up and down the scales. The second movement continues with a generally measured sombre tone that is also characterised by richly satisfying melodies. The last movement - titled Burlesque - is a complete contrast. It is upbeat from the start with an almost mischievous air to it before settling into a rhapsodic interlude then returning to its quirky beginnings. There are echoes of jazz in its opening which brought Stéphane Grappelli and the “Hot Club de France” to mind alongside its more sober sections. The whole sonata was refreshingly different and will, I’m sure, repay further hearings.
 
I am always pleased to come across composers I’ve not heard before. As with Skoryk likewise with Arno Babajanian. It is stretching the geographical definition of ‘Eastern Europe’ in the disc’s title to include Armenia which is where Babajanian was born. Never mind, the music is intriguing and with its folk influence is a welcome discovery. The opening movement is austere with the marking of Grave fully deserved - its slowly evolving stark beauty wins one over. The second movement begins in a similar vein before suddenly erupting into a brief burst of energy then closing in a calm manner. The final dance movement is fast and furious almost manic. It seems disturbed as if searching for something elusive which finally melts away to conclude in gentle regret.
 
Igor Veligan and Natsuki Fukasawa give committed performances of these three fascinating and contrasting and rarely heard works.
 
Steve Arloff