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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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The Three Osokins in Latvian Piano Music
Georgijs Osokins, Sergejs Osokins, Andrejs Osokins (piano)
rec. 2017, Concert Hall Cēsis, Latvia; Latvian Radio Station (Maskats and Vītols) SKANI LMIC060 [77:23]
The Osokins, father and two sons, are a renowned family in Latvia. Each has been the recipient of the Great Music Award, the country’s most coveted musical honour. In addition to forging individual careers, since 2015 the trio have regularly performed together. This is their debut joint album, a panorama of Latvian music, aptly timed for their country’s centenary celebrations. The works have been chosen for their contrasting characters, some have been undiscovered until now, others more familiar. That said, all, apart from Skulte’s Arietta, are new to me, so it’s been an exciting voyage of discovery.
The youngest of the Osokin trio kicks off with two pieces by Vasks. Both pieces, Music for a Summer Evening and White Scenery, evoke an atmosphere of tranquillity and stillness. Georgijs Osokins’s sensitive pedalling conjures some stunningly luminous sonorities. It’s followed by a heart-rending performance of Ādolfs Skulte's Arietta, music weighed down by pain and sadness. What impresses me are the subtle nuances Osokins brings to the piece. For instance he slightly hesitates and gently arpeggiates the left hand chord in bar eight; the effect is almost imperceptible, but it draws out that extra ounce of emotion.
Two composers are assigned to Sergejs Osokins. Jānis Zālītis was a student of Jāzeps Vītols at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He was exposed to many significant influences in the city, none more so than Alexander Scriabin, who became something of a guru for him. The influence of the older composer is apparent in the colourful and exotic chromatic harmonies on show. Album Leaf, Reminiscence and Subtle (Effortless) Delight are good examples. The two sets of Preludes by Jānis Ivanovs were penned twenty years apart. The first, which dates from 1952-1953, was composed whilst Ivanovs was under the thumb of the Soviet authorities. Socialist realism demanded that the music be upbeat and optimistic. So, the pieces are playful and carefree. By 1976-1979 when the second set were written, life had changed somewhat. Ivanovs, now an old man, had time for reflection, and a meditative calm suffuses the cycle. The third piece, the longest at over three minutes, has a static quality, where time seems almost to stand still. The fifth is more animated than the rest, and sets the seal in dramatic fashion.
The earliest composer is Jāzeps Vītols, and his six pieces are some of the most accessible on the disc. The booklet places them in the 'salon' category, but this in no way diminishes their stature or lyrical appeal. Berceuse and Lullaby both spin a soothing and affectionate weave, whilst Valse gives me that feel good factor. However, it is Song of the Waves which is the gem, an expansive portrait of the sea, graphically depicted from a period of calm to its transformation into a raging storm. Vītols demands of the performer a formidable technique in portraying the chromatic surges and impressionistic wash.
Arturs Maskats is represented by one work, the substantial descriptive study of the Tsminda Sameba (Holy Trinity) monastery, set in the picturesque Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. The powerful impression it made on the composer is there for all to witness in this stunning, colourfully etched canvas. The piece is dedicated to Andrejs Osokins, whose impassioned rendition has an ardent potency.
This is a terrific release and one that has given me much pleasure. The music certainly deserves to be better known. The recordings were set down in October 2017, but at two separate venues. Both prove ideal in conferring a level of warmth and intimacy on the music-making. The booklet notes provide more than sufficient information on, what will be for many, unknown repertoire. As for the Osokins – well, all I can say is, what better advocates. I hope we won’t have to wait too long for a follow-up volume.
Stephen Greenbank Contents Pēteris VASKS (b. 1946)
Music for a Summer Evening
White Scenery Ādolfs SKULTE (1909-2000)
Georgijs Osokins (piano) Jānis ZĀLĪTIS (1884–1943)
Mazurka in E minor
Mazurka in G-flat major Jānis IVANOVS (1906-1983)
Five Preludes (1952-53)
Five Preludes (1976-1979)
Sergejs Osokins (piano) Arturs MASKATS (b. 1957)
Kazbegi - Tsminda-Sameba Jāzeps VĪTOLS (1863-1948)
Berceuse in E major, op. 41 No. 1
Mazurka in G minor, op. 9 No. 1
Valse in D-flat major, op. 9 No. 2
Prelude in B-flat minor, op. 16 No. 2
Lullaby, op. 18 No. 1
Song of the Waves, op. 41 No. 2
Andrejs Osokins (piano)
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