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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 80 (1946) [28.46]
Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 56 (1932) [14.41]
Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 94bis (1944) [24.13]
Five Melodies for violin and piano, Op. 35bis (1925) [12.44]
Natalia Lomeiko (violin); Yuri Zhislin (violin, Op. 56); Olga Sitkovetsky (piano)
rec. April 2012, Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth; May 2012, Henry Wood Hall, London (Op. 56)
ATOLL ACD513 [68.04 + 12.44]

It would have been good had Atoll managed to get this quartet of Prokofiev violin pieces onto a single disc. Running for 80:54 it was just too long for its capacity, it would appear, though other labels can happily fit 84 or so minutes to a disc. Fortunately this doesn’t affect its price bracket.

These are elegant, refined performances, recorded in 2012 in two locations and make for a logical succession of works. Natalia Lomeiko has enlisted Yuri Zhislin – not tricky, as he’s her husband – to play the Sonata for two violins which is the work that tends to be overlooked when recording the Prokofiev violin-and-piano repertoire, for obvious reasons. Elegant and refined, yes, but also lacking some of those qualities of graphic intensity that one finds in other performances. I liked the approach of Lomeiko and Olga Sitkovetsky to the F minor sonata but the wind-over-the-graveyard passage in its opening movement is lacking in eeriness; try Vadim Repin and Boris Berezovsky on Erato [0630-10698-2; also boxed set], for example, to hear how ghostly, evanescent and quicksilver this can truly sound. That astonishing moment in the Allegro brusco when Prokofiev moves from fractious tension to an outpouring of sudden, brisk lyricism is all the more startling – indeed astonishing – when played as abruptly as it is by Repin. That’s not to diminish admiration for the highly musical performance on Atoll – even as I wish the dynamic range of the performance could have been more marked. Repin and Berezovsky dare some extremely terraced dynamics.

These elements - phrasing, tonal colour, range of sound – are true of the Sonata in D. Here, Lomeiko maintains tonal body even in alt and her playing is very persuasive in all except the finale, which I find a bit stodgy. Repin and Berezovsky’s con brio is much more vital. The Sonata for two violins plays to the strengths of Lomeiko and Zhislin – matched vibratos, seamless phrasing, and excellent dovetailing. This is a subtle, stylish performance. The Five Melodies are fresh and lyrical though again the competing Erato duo reveals gradations of wit and tonal allure that the Atoll team cannot quite match.

The recordings were made at Wyastone Leys and – in the case of the Sonata for two violins - Henry Wood Hall in London. The notes are skimpy.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Michael Cookson



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