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In Schubert’s Company
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Polonaise in B flat major D 580 for violin & orchestra (arr. viola by M. Rysanov) [5:31]
Sergey AKHUNOV (b. 1967)
In Schubert’s Company for viola & orchestra [6:52]
Leonid DESYATNIKOV (b. 1955)
Wie der alte Leiermann … for violin & orchestra (arr. viola by M. Rysanov) [13:41]
Sonata in A minor for arpeggione & piano D 821 [24:16]
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major D 485 [25:20]
Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b. 1980)
Fantasy Homage to Schubert for viola and string orchestra [11:10]
Der Erlkönig for viola & orchestra [5:07]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in G minor D 408 (arr. viola by M. Rysanov) [19:13]
Der Leierman from Winterreise  [4:01] (arr. viola & orchestra by D. Tabakova)
Yakov Katsnelson (piano)
Riga Sinfonietta/Maxim Rysanov (viola)
rec. 2016, Choral Academy Music Hall, Moscow (Schubert sonatas); Reformation Church Riga (Symphony No. 5 & orchestral works)
ONYX 4183 [50:43 + 65:00]

This album is dedicated to Schubert’s 220th anniversary and constitutes a thrilling confrontation between the old master’s music and composers of the present day. As is meet and proper Schubert himself opens the proceedings with the polonaise in B-flat, written for violin and orchestra, although Maxim Rysanov has arranged it for viola. It is charming and entertaining and played with superb ease and elegance.

Some years ago Rysanov invited young composers to take part in a composition competition, where the brief was to write a piece for viola and string orchestra, inspired by Schubert. Sergey Akhunov was the winner with a piece titled In Schubert’s Company, based on a theme from the Adagio and Rondo Concertante, D487. The music is achingly beautiful and the writing for the string orchestra is superb.

Leonid Desyatnikov wrote Wie der alte Leiermann… for Schubert’s 200th anniversary in 1997 and dedicated it to Gidon Kremer. At times one can imagine a group of folk music fiddlers, there is rhythmic intensity and a ‘primitive’ sound world. A fast section focuses on the viola and a ‘riff’ accompaniment is very uplifting. Sometimes there is also sounds of bagpipes. A thrilling composition. The first disc is rounded off with the well-known Arpeggione sonata. Rysanov’s playing is masterly. The first movement is played with lightness and gusto. The adagio is one of Schubert’s most beautiful melodies, played here with marvellous sensitivity. Then follows the allegretto attacca - a charming masterpiece filled with warmth and light – and a pinch of Schubertian melancholy.

On CD 2 we encounter Schubert’s sunniest symphony, the one in B flat D485. Springy rhythms and swift tempos characterise Rysanov’s reading. The second movement, Andante con moto, is a rural idyll, the minuet is swift and dancing with an idyllic trio and the concluding Allegro molto is exciting. A fresh and ‘modern’ approach.

Dobrinka Tabakova wrote Fantasy Homage to Schubert for Maxim Rysanov and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, who premiered it in Vilnius in 2013. It begins almost inaudibly and slowly grows ‘floating through the cosmos in a kind of weightlessness, passing stars and planets, we are glimpsing our planet Earth for the first time, fragile and perfect. Then we float off, before a final glance towards our planet’. The quotation is the composer’s words to the orchestra before the premiere. The Schubert melody that is at the heart of the work is the opening of the Phantasie in C major for violin and piano.

In Sergey Akhunov’s Der Erlkönig the ride starts at once and the nervousness permeates the whole piece. Schubert’s G minor violin sonata is no stranger to the catalogues, but Rysanov’s arrangement for viola is welcome for a change and it seems to me that Schubert’s andante movements are particularly well suited to the slightly veiled tone of the viola. Back to Winterreise and Der Leiermann as conclusion of this unusual programme. Dobrinka Tabakova’s arrangement for viola and orchestra is just as bleak as one imagines the man walking barefoot on the ice.

This may well be the most unusual homage to Schubert this anniversary year – but also the most thrilling. Maxim Rysanov’s playing is outstanding and he is assisted by top notch musicians. Onyx provide excellent sonics and the programme is fascinating.

Göran Forsling



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