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Yevhen STANKOVYCH (b.1942) On the Verkhovyna Plain: Triptych (1972) [8:59] Sonata Piccola (1977) [8:11] Ukrainian Poem (1997) [8:34] The Angel’s Touch (2013) [10:43] Poem: A Dedication (2008) [8:04] Morning Music (2006/2016) [8:59] Romance (1970, transcr. Arkady Vynokurov) [3:32] Maydan Fresco (2014) [6:31]
Solomia Soroka (violin), Arthur Greene (piano)
rec. May/June 2016, Blue Griffin Studio, Lansing, Michigan TOCCATA TOCC0402 [63:36]
Yevhen Stankovych, a leading Ukrainian composer, has composed a raft of large-scale works including six symphonies, two operas and a series of string concertos, as well as miscellaneous orchestral works and a plethora of film scores. In this disc, however, focus falls on his violin music, all of which, with the modest exception of the eleven-minute The Angel’s Touch, is making a first appearance on disc.
The works date from 1972 to 2014 and reflect associations, influences and refractions from Szymanowski to Shostakovich. The triptych On the Verkhovyna Plain, the earliest work in the selection, offers evidence of Stankovych’s engaging communicativeness. The Lullaby opening is a compound of Bartók’s Nocturne and folkloric song, bending and twisting in the breeze, whilst the vexing polytonalities of the central Wedding movement generate a vital dance rhythm. Though the final panel is the most harmonically remote and contemporary, it too manages to summon up rhythmic variety and great slabs of colour. Polystylistic and cast in five sections, the compact Sonata Piccola of 1977 enshrines more evidence of the composer’s poignant liking for the nocturnal as well as, maybe, his allegiance to Stravinsky. Rather more blameless warmth can be encountered in the work written for his son, The Ukrainian Poem. It is full of songful lyricism and up-tempo dance motifs and even a little more Stravinsky-influenced primitivism to add some astringency. As with everything here, its compactness ensures no thematic wandering.
The reflective and the dappled haunt The Angels’ Touch. This work of introspection and melancholy picks up both tempo and tempestuousness as it develops, only to relax into renewed lyricism, an arc that serves to deepen the songfulness. It is clear that richness of expression and the occasional harmonic crunchiness that Stankovych employs are not held in opposition but are both essential allied components of his art. Even a competition piece such as Poem: A Dedication, written for the Benjamin Britten International Violin Competition in 2008, offers intriguing contrast, with the violin’s long, lyric lines coming up against, but not being subsumed by, the piano’s busier and more athletic writing.
Morning Music was composed in 2006 for the eminently portable duo of violin and accordion and revised a decade later more for the conventional duo to be heard here. It charts the getting-up-and-having-a-coffee nature of things with a full complement of sonorities, from shimmering piano to welcome the dew, through the violin’s elongated lines that reflect the light wind, through the more agitated flurries of sunrise leading to a refulgent start of the day. This is a delightful piece. The Romance, originally composed for voice and piano sometimes in the 1970s, has been recast for violin and piano; its allusive impressionism works well in the new combination. Finally, there is Maydan Fresco, inspired by the tragic events that began in November 2013 culminating in a bloodbath in Independence Square, Kyiv, when protesters who wanted European integration were killed. The musical echoes here are Shostakovich, Prokofiev and, once more, Stravinsky. The violin cries, implacable pounding piano and threnodic passages leading to a memorialising last panel all attest to the harrowing events. This is the most descriptive writing in the disc, and the grimmest.
Both Solomia Soroka and Arthur Greene play with sensitivity and passion and have been well recorded. I remember their Arthur Hartmann disc with equal pleasure. The violinist’s own booklet notes are customarily excellent. This is a valuable addition to the roster of approachable and valuable new violin music available on the Toccata label.