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Igor RAYKHELSON (b. 1961)
Piano and Chamber Music - Volume One
Piano Trio No. 1 in E major (2003) [11:12]
Sonnet for Violin and Piano (2001) [7:07]
Piano Sonata in F minor (2005) [25:16]
Violin Sonata in A minor (2005) [19:32]
String Quartet in F minor (2010) [15:09]*
Ekaterina Astashova (violin); Alexander Kniazev (cello); Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
Borodin Quartet
rec. live, 2011, Concert Hall of the Gnessin Institute; 2017, The House of Sound Recording, Moscow

Toccata Classics are doing a sterling job promoting the music of the Russian born pianist and composer Igor Raykhelson. By my reckoning, this is the fourth volume of his music that the label has issued (review ~ review). This release is announced as volume one of his piano and chamber music. Raykhelson originates from Leningrad, as it was then, and studied classical and jazz piano at the conservatory there. Early on he formed his own jazz quartet, The Emerging Stars. In 1979 he relocated to New York, taking piano lessons with Alexander Edelman. He’s one of those rare musicians whose careers embrace both classical and jazz. Eventually, his compositional career took off. He became closely associated with the viola player Yuri Bashmet, who has been the inspiration behind some of his compositions. He considers his creative medium as ‘crossover’, with melody being the governing factor. When I listen to the music on this disc, and I have to say it is my first ever encounter with it, I detect multifarious influences. Neoclassicism, late-Romanticism, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and, of course, jazz all coalesce into these lyrically effusive and attractively colourful scores.

The Piano Trio No. 1 in E major dates from 2003 and is a single-movement piece. It opens with a luscious cello melody, wistful and reflective. The occasional bluesy chord on the piano adds a jazzy brush stroke which is even more explicit in the central Scherzando. This section is ushered in by string pizzicatos and offers some contrast with its animated bustle. The work closes as it began in an atmosphere of tranquil serenity.

The Violin Sonata in A minor was inspired by Vadim Repin. Cast in three movements, it was composed in 2005. The first opens with a funereal tread marked Grave. This leads into a lengthy movement of sweeping, romantic elegance. The slow movement is a tender, hauntingly melodic song, ardently etched by Ekaterina Astashova and Konstantin Lifschitz. The Sonata ends with a crisply accented finale, culminating in a bold, decisive flourish. The Sonnet for violin and piano dates from four years earlier and was premiered, together with the Sonata, at the Moscow Conservatory in 2005 by Elena Revich with the composer at the piano. Dark, sombre and elegiac, that funereal tread is again present in the opening measures.

At 25 minutes, the Piano sonata is the lengthiest work here. The inspiration behind it is Konstantin Lifschitz, who is the pianist in this recording. The opener is nostalgic and pensive, yet intensely romantic. Then comes a scherzo-like movement, jaunty and impish. A doleful, introspective Largo follows. The work ends with a brief and mettlesome, forwardly-propelled Allegro risoluto. Lifschitz’s stunning virtuosity and artful musicianship secure favourable results.

This performance of the String Quartet of 2010 derives from a live airing given at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow in December 2011 by its dedicatees the Borodin Quartet. It’s a compact three-movement work. The slow movement is unusually marked Adagio meditabondo, which means ‘musing’. Iti framed on either side by more spirited movements. It reflects on the first movement’s material, especially in some waltz-like episodes. In fact, the entire quartet is a play on different aspects of the same musical material, imaginatively welded into a single organic conception.

There’s much to enjoy in this superbly engineered release and I, for one, have relished the music’s lyricism and cross-fertilizations. The works are given stylish performances.

Stephen Greenbank



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