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Grigori FRID (1915-2012)
Complete Music for Viola and Piano
Viola Sonata No.2, Op.78 (1985) [23:42]
Six Pieces for Viola and Piano, Op.68 (1975) [14:02]
Viola Sonata No.1, Op.62 (1971) [13:03]
Alexander VUSTIN (b.1948)
In Memoriam Grigori Frid (2014) [11:11]
Elena Artamonova (viola)
Christopher Guild (piano)
rec. July 2015, The Old Granary Studio, Suffolk

Grigori Frid’s long life was marked by political turbulence and unease. His father had been sentenced to a five-year period in a vicious labour-camp in 1927 but the family survived intact. Frid was a teacher and educator, a disseminator of contemporary music and a composer of wide gifts whose portfolio includes three symphonies, numerous chamber works, and choral music as well as a raft of incidental, theatre and radio works.

His complete viola music is the subject of this disc. Frid admired the instrument for its qualities of ‘reflection and contemplation’ as he related to the violist in this disc, Elena Artamonova, who gave the British premiere of the Viola Sonata No.1 in 2011. The work dates from 1971. The viola opens solo, and muted, revealing a Fridian fusion of lyricism and austerity with hints of March elements too. The central movement is a fast one, opening attaca, toccata-like and full of verve. The slow finale – the ground plan is vaguely Prokofiev-like – opens with a free cadenza, the piano cushioning or commenting quietly on the viola’s inexorable ascent to its highest register and silence.

The Sonata No.2 followed in 1985. Its subject matter is the Greek myth of Phaedra and it’s cast in four movements. There is appropriately sombre tolling embedded in the work, and a heavily oppressive atmosphere, though Frid also embraces polystylism, introducing a stylised Baroque dance into the second movement, Music in a Palace, which is then subjected to much development and fragmentation. The Catharis movement takes the viola very high and introduces an element of equilibrium before the tolling finale of the Epilogue leads the viola to meander amidst the lament and reiteration of the opening movement. Some elements here suggest Shostakovich’s influence but this stoically aloof piece need not be seen as part of that lineage; it stands on its own feet. The Six Pieces (1975) are little character sketches, strong on sul ponticello, off-kilter dancing, interrupted dialogues, some tart dissonance and a highly developed sense of introversion, perfectly exemplified by the concluding Lento.

Talking of conclusions, that marks the end of Frid’s viola music. The disc is rounded out with his pupil Alexander Vustin’s In Memoriam Grigori Frid, composed in 2014. In two movements it builds strongly, through a quietly complex structure, to produce a work of weighted gravity whose lyricism formulates into a kind of sombre refraction. It’s a fine salute from student to teacher.

Both Artamonova and Christopher Guild have recorded before for Toccata. She recorded Grechaninov and Vasilenko, whilst Guild has recorded Ronald Center and Ronald Stevenson. Together they make a fine team, though the violist has in the past more usually been paired with Nicholas Walker, who accompanied her in the two discs just mentioned. The recording is well-balanced and the notes – by the violist – are full of important biographical and musical information.

Jonathan Woolf



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