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Viktor KOSENKO (1896-1938)
11 Études Op.8 (1922-23) [31:55]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
4 Préludes Op.22 (1897) [5:04]
Piano Sonata No.4 Op.30 (1903) [8:13]
Igor Gryshyn (piano)
rec. 2019/20, Kammermusiksaal, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig

I was attracted to this CD on the strength of a marvellous disc on which pianist Violina Petrychenko plays familiar Scriabin alongside Kosenko, in that instance his Poemen Legenden Op.12, Mazurkas Op.3 and second Sonata Op.14 (Ars Produktion ARS38153 review). This ably demonstrated the quality of Kosenko's music as well as the similarities between the two composers and this disc, on which we are treated to his études, only serves to confirm this. It must be said that it is mostly Scriabin's earlier works that influenced Kosenko; there is nothing on either of these discs that emulates Scriabin's mature harmonic language.

Kosenko was a modest, selfless man who had a prodigious musical memory and was a fine pianist; he evidently astounded professors at his entrance exam to the St. Petersburg Conservatory by not only playing the sight reading study from memory after looking through it once but also transposing it as required. He was born in St Petersburg and after his studies he lived in Zhytomyr in the Ukraine and finally Kiev, where his concertising and teaching often kept him apart from his wife Angelina. His output concentrates heavily on piano music and songs though there is a violin concerto and a few orchestral and chamber works, much of it remaining in manuscript. His pianistic gifts are immediately clear from these études. Designated op.8 like the set of 12 études by Scriabin they stand stylistically between Scriabin's op.8 and op.42 set. They were composed around the same time as his Eleven études in the form of old dances op.19 (available on Toccata Classics TOCC0036 review) and though mostly forgotten now they were once required repertoire at Ukrainian Conservatories. The first étude is a fleet moto perpetuo waltz full of sliding chromatic harmonies and the influence of Scriabin is immediately heard in the elegiac second étude that not only shares same key as Scriabin's étude in B flat minor op.8 no.11 but starts with an almost identical motif and mood. There is an obsessive impetus to the third study combined with widely spaced left-hand arpeggios and a passionate drive to the right hand's octaves. The charming fourth study has echoes of Rachmaninov running through its homage to a baroque bourrée while the presto triplets and left hand octaves of number five are constantly giving way to an impassioned descending melody, sometimes every other bar; it is also something of a exercise in stamina with its many chordal and octave passages. The sixth is a lighter affair, a tricky but lilting waltz in double notes and the passion of the seventh is more of young love than the brooding drama and aching melancholy that the F sharp minor eighth study exhibits. The dizzying quintuplets of the ninth étude lend a phantasmagorical touch to the set followed by a mournful funeral march with its tolling bells. The set closes with glowing big hearted étude in E major.

The four préludes that form Scriabin's op.22 are all short – short as a sparrow's beak is Tolstoy's comment on some of Scriabin's many préludes quoted in the booklet – and are in much the same vein as the préludes of the more familiar op.11 set. The first sets a simple melody above spread arpeggios and to my ears has a feel of Albéniz in his darker, more reflective music. Sinuous chromaticism is the characteristic of the second and the third is a lyrical triple time dance. The fourth has a constant stream of upward chords and syncopated left hand accompaniment in phrases that might rise optimistically but which ultimately fall into resignation. This is a far cry from his fourth Sonata which explores more exotic harmonies, playing around the edges of the home key but finally reaching it exultantly in the last bars of the sonata. Gryshyn captures the questioning, enigmatic mood of the opening movement very well with its star thinly veiled in transparent cloud (Scriabin's preface to the work) and has a wonderful rhythmic flexibility and clarity in the prestissimo volando second movement. This clarity of touch also comes across in the Kosenko études which call for delicate fast finger-work as often as they do rich, meaty virtuosity, both of which Gryshyn has in spades as well as a sensitivity to their capricious moods.

I love the Kosenko études; one may feel that they are written out of time considering the date and the fact that they inhabit so much of the sound world of earlier times but once you accept that they are entertaining, hugely virtuosic and imaginative works that deserve to be heard. If I had a complaint with this CD it would only be the relatively short playing time, with space for more Kosenko but other than that this is a worthy release.

Rob Challinor

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