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Théodore AKIMENKO (1876–1945)
Music for Violin and Piano
Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 32 (1907) [22:00]
Mélodie russe (1925) [3:21]
Trois Pièces, Op. 31, Nos. 1 and 3 (1909) [6:45]
Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 38b (1911) [19:04]
Trois Pièces (pre-1912) [13:29]
Tatiana Chulochnikova (violin)
Anastasia Dedik (piano)
rec. October-December 2015, Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York

Fyodor (he became Théodore after settling in Paris) Akimenko – and to confuse things further it’s Yakymenko in Ukrainian transliteration – was born in 1876 in Kharkov and died in Paris in 1945. He studied in St Petersburg with Balakirev and Lyapunov, completing a composition course under the tutelage of Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov. In turn, he became Stravinsky’s first teacher, but preferred exile in Switzerland and France to a prestigious teaching position in the Soviet Union.

His music for violin and piano – he was himself a noted pianist – offers an insight into the music of the ‘pre-revolutionary’ Akimenko, all of it, bar one little piece, being composed between the years 1907 and 1912. The Sonata No.1 has plentiful incident with profitable byplay between the two instruments. Certainly the first movement conforms to sonata allegro principles but it’s also winsome in places, lightly orientated toward the salon. The central movement, however, a series of variations over a passacaglia-like tread, is richer and deeper, whilst still maintaining a playful element and the finale’s folkloric profile ends the work in playful high spirits. The second sonata followed in 1911 and shows that a few short years had brought a greater harmonic sophistication. Interestingly he gives the most beautiful writing, the introduction to the slow movement, to the piano but the turbulent second subject casts its own little spell. The finale is motored yet again by dance-based themes contrasting with an ardent, aching lyric theme.

In his marrying of dance material and lyricism he sounds not unlike Grechaninov and the way he fuses melancholy and merriment – very Slavic indeed – in the 1925 Mélodie russe reveals a gift for compact characterisation. The Trois Pièces, Op.31 date from c.1909 though the central panel is missing, presumed lost. The first piece sounds very redolent of the Mélodie russe whilst the frolicsome Danse is more reflective of the influence of, say, Grieg or Sinding. The pre-1912 set of three – fortunately all extant - Pièces are more conventional; salonesque, elegant, and somewhat generic.

Graced by fine notes, this charming music is played with precision by the two performers. At times I wished for more tonal breadth and variety from Tatiana Chulochnikova but possibly the rather unresonant and dry studio quality imparts the somewhat razory quality to her playing.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett


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