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Frolov and Friends

Igor FROLOV (1937-2013)

DELOS DE3557 [62:50]

 

 

 

Romance [3:06]

Caprice [3:39]

Impromptu Waltz [3:09]

Scherzo [3:18]

Piece in Blues Style [5:13]

Dansa Latina [3:06]

Amiran Waltz [5:29]

Swedish Farewell Waltz [2:56]

Juan Almeida BOSQUE (1927-2009)

Seis Melodias [23:47]

George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)

Porgy and Bess – Summertime [3:34]

Jorge ANCKERMANN (1877-1941)

Cuban Piece [3:23]

Rodrigo PRATS (i1909-1980)

Maria’s Piece [3:06]

Piet Koornhof (violin)

Albie can Schalkwyk (piano)

rec. 2016/18, Conservatoire Hall, School of Music, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

 

A one-time student of David Oistrakh at the Moscow Conservatory, where he subsequently became professor of violin, Igor Frolov grew up at a time when jazz was frowned upon by the Soviet state. Yet he had a life-long passion for it, and with the close relationship the Soviet Union had with Cuba, he was able to travel there and indulge in his passion for it relatively freely. This explains the strong Cuban bias in the music on this disc, which includes original compositions as well as arrangements, largely intended as encores for Frolov’s own recitals. The Swedish Farewell Waltz derives, so Piet Koornhof’s delightful booklet notes tell us, from a fragment he found printed on a napkin he picked up from the restaurant of his hotel shortly before his final recital in a Swedish tour. He had no idea this was a popular Swedish tune, and as it proved such a huge success when he played it as an encore, he published it under the name of Serge Gais – almost certainly a pseudonym designed to off-set accusations of plagiarism.

As with a disc made up of short, soft-core jazz encores for violin and piano, the whole gives off a powerful whiff of casual, relaxed, easy-listening. Perhaps, at first hearing, one could even think it belonged to that vast collection of recordings used to create playlists for those whose job it is to make our lives miserable by swamping every public area in hotels and shopping malls with vague, androgynous music. Yet Frolov was a violin virtuoso, and these pieces are far more challenging than they sound. It is a huge tribute to Koornhof that he makes them all sound so effortless, coaxing the often sentimental and lyrical ideas from the instrument and fighting shy of excessive outbursts of virtuosity (although we get some pretty spectacular displays of technical brilliance in the superficially innocuous Caprice and the breathlessly energetic Scherzo, both of which sound, as do so many of Frolov’s original compositions, as if they could quite easily have come from the pen of Fritz Kreisler). Albie van Schalkwyk proves a delicately supportive pianist throughout, happily sliding into the background in order for the violin to grab all the limelight.

If the ghost of Kreisler seems to haunt Frolov’s original compositions, it is Cuba which dominates the arrangements. Jorge Ancekermann’sCuban Piece sashays sultrily to the rhythm of the habanera, while Maria’s Piece by the native Cuban composer, Rodrigo Prats (who, it seems, never left Cuba) with its tango-flavoured rhythm exudes the spirit of the jazz bars and clubs of Havana which Prats frequented. The political links between Soviet Russia and Communist Cuba are also celebrated by the inclusion of six sentimental melodies by one of Cuba’s revolutionary leaders, Juan Almeida Bosque. Think what you might of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and the other luminaries of the Revolution, I think on balance Bosque served his country better as a military leader, revolutionary politician and Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State than he did as a composer, although Frolov’s deeply sympathetic arrangements and Koornhof and Schalkwyk’s deliciously poised performances help allay the more blatantly derivative and syrupy elements.

Marc Rochester

 


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