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Nikolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Violin Sonata, Op.70 (1947) [19:48]
Vissarion SHEBALIN (1902-1963)
Violin Sonata, Op.51 No.1 (1958) [21:40]
Vasily NECHAEV (1895-1956)
Violin Sonata, Op.12 (1928) [20:52]
Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin)
Viktoria Postnikova (piano)
rec. 2017, Academy of Choral Arts, Moscow

Of this triptych of violin sonatas only Shebalin’s has previously been recorded. All three men taught at the Moscow Conservatoire, where Myaskovsky was Shebalin’s foremost teacher – the latter dedicated his First Symphony to the older man. Nechaev is the least known, Moscow-born and a graduate of Sergei Vasilenko’s composition class and Goldenweiser’s piano class.

I’ve only known of Myaskovsky’s sonata via a BBC radio broadcast played by Nona Liddell and Daphne Ibbott, so the long-overdue recording here will come as a welcome addition to the oft-recorded cello sonatas for most admirers of the composer’s music. Dating from 1946, it was revised the following year and premiered by Oistrakh and Oborin in April 1947. It has always struck me as a delightfully generous-hearted work and this premičre commercial recording only cements that opinion. Its songful, expressive line are admirably evoked by Sasha Rozhdestvensky and Viktoria Postnikova, the violinist’s subtle intensifications of vibrato and expressive shading being a notable element of the success of the performance. They bind the first movement well, never allowing it to sag, and characterise the second movement’s series of variations with adroit perception. A Slavic theme ushers in a fiery contrast of good-natured elements, both playful and ardent, and a confident coda. Some of the writing would not sound too out of place in Grieg and that’s not intended as a criticism.

Shebalin’s sonata comes from a decade later. It’s cast in four conventional movements and, like the work of his teacher, exudes a similarly long-breathed eloquence and lyric imperative. The nicely capricious scherzo is accompanied by heavy-booted folk elements, and the most beautiful slow movement is a rhapsodic unfolding. The finale rivets by virtue of its exciting, sinewy march theme, full of bravado, and a B section that offers a ripe contrast before the triumphant close.

The earliest work in this recital is the most stylistically adventurous. Vasily Nechaev wrote his sonata in 1928 and Richard Whitehouse notes perceptively in the booklet that Nechaev seems attuned to Prokofiev and Bartók. The writing is crisp, powerful, even motoric in places, and this allows the slower material to emerge all the more viscerally. With a powerful, almost Lisztian-Mussorgksian atmosphere in the central movement, this sonata is not short on mood swings, not least in the noble gravity of the writing, and in the febrile determinism of the finale. This is a valuable addition to the discography and it’s played with real conviction.

With a thoroughly sympathetic recording in the Academy of Choral Arts, Moscow, this is a praiseworthy release.

Jonathan Woolf

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