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Nostalgic Russia
Hideko Udagawa (violin)
Petr Limonov (piano)
rec. 26-27 November 2020; St. Silas Church, London

I was delighted to receive this adventurous, quietly rich and pleasant, new release following Hideko Udagawa’s “Russian Romantics” (review). It was recorded last November in the congenial acoustic of St. Silas Church and is ideal for warm sunny afternoons one of which was when I played the disc. On this occasion, the stimulating and well appointed “Nostalgic Russia” recital. It forms part of Northern Flowers' "St. Petersburg Musical Archive" series, with Cyrillic characters on the cover. Its programme spans nearly a century (1868-1961). Hideko Udagawa, a pupil of Nathan Milstein, has made recordings for more than thirty years. Her Brahms/Bruch, two favourite works, I rate very highly. Also on Nimbus you can encounter her way with collections that feature Glazunov and the Baroque. Signum have also hosted her Lyapunov and Khachaturian and Koch her Khachaturian recital of works for violin and piano.

In the review of the Khachaturian (Koch), we were assured that there was “fine playing by both artists and a vigorous and vivid recording”. I would totally agree with these comments regarding the present disc for which Petr Limonov provides sympathetic accompaniment. The music-making is complemented by sound that is well engineered by Philip Siney. There are informative notes by Gavin Dixon who has a Ph.D. on Alfred Schnittke and is a member of the editorial team for the Alfred Schnittke Collected works. He regularly writes programme notes, and here these are as usual exemplary which adds to the enjoyment of works which are unfamiliar.

The positive review of Russian Romantics concluded that “The consistency of emotional mood and vibrant grand style across approaching 63 minutes means you may well want to play this disc in several sittings. These well-chosen scores embody musical nostalgia but they are not to be taken liberally.” Based on that review, I purchased the disc which I commend highly and may well be reviewed by me in due course. The CD currently under consideration, Nostalgic Russia, is another splendidly performed and rewarding collection.

We commence with two sublime Tchaikovsky miniatures. I’m sure these pieces would have been ideal in the days of the 78 which is one way of saying that this is like the previous disc, one to dip into, rather than play in one go. However, compared with the intensity of Tchaikovsky or Mahler symphonies, it’s sometimes desirable, particular in current times, to have a more intimate and personal programme. I should mention that the Valse Sentimentale was transcribed for theremin by violinist Clara Rockmore.

I was especially taken with the Rachmaninov - the still underrated Elegie - which, like the Tchaikovsky Romance, here receives its world premiere recording. Stravinsky’s plaintive Chanson Russe from his Pushkin opera Mavra, is a parodied Russian folk tune. I recently watched a BBC film of Stravinsky conducting the New Philharmonia in 1964 in “The Firebird”. In the 1930s Stravinsky toured with violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976) who made the arrangement and regularly performed this work; he also collaborated with and pioneered the same composer’s Violin Concerto. No less striking in this company are two early works from Shostakovich whose youthful talent is displayed. Two pieces by Kabalevsky make an intriguing finale. There is the expressive yet sensitive Improvisation and then the highly demanding Rondo of 1961, written for the Second International Tchaikovsky competition. Those contestants must surely have been tested but here the sure-footed performers display the work’s harmony and splendour.

Listening to this disc has been a great pleasure and has introduced me to music of which I was generally unaware. It will certainly provide a great treat to those who enjoy this combination and are curious about largely lesser known repertoire. A really fine effort all round. In a word - enchanting!
David R Dunsmore

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Romance Op.5 (1868) [5:20]
Valse Sentimentale Op.51/6 (1882) [2:05]
Eduard NAPRAVNIK (1839-1916)
Four Pieces Op.64 (1898) [16:13]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Elegie Op.3/1 (1892) [4:17]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Chanson Russe (1922) [3:36]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Hymn to the Sun (1908) [4:39]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Tempo di Valse (1891) [4:37]
Serenade Op.30/2 (1891) [3:10]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Nocturne Op.5/1 (1890) [4:00]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Three Fantastic Dances Op.5 (1922) [4:13]
5 Preludes from Op.34 (1932-3) [6:10]
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Improvisation Op.21/1 (1934) [4:41]
Rondo Op.69 (1961) [7:59]

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