SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 61. Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 5. Five Preludes. Lyric Waltz from Dances of the Dolls. Short Piece and Spanish Dance from The Gadfly. Nocturne from The Limpid Stream. Aphorisms, Op. 13. Polka from The Golden Age.
Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist
DECCA B000184602 (F) (DDD) TT: 61:43

SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Sonata, Op. 134. 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, Op. 34 (trans. Dmitri Tziganov and Lera Auerbach)
Grigory Kalinovsky, violin; Tatiana Goncharov, piano
CENTAUR CRC 2636 (F) (DDD) TT: 66:43

Both of these collections are superbly recorded, as befits their respective needs, and both are praiseworthy despite some formidable competition in the the cases of the Violin Sonata of 1968, composed for Igor Oistrakh’s 60th birthday, and the Second Piano Sonata of 1942. Centaur’s Grigory Kalinovsky, a Russian-born protégé of Pinchas Zukerman who now teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, has only Rostislav Dubinsky, accompanied by Luba Edina on Chandos, in the same sonic class (Lillian Mordkovich, also on Chandos, is an eccentric interpreter in this instance). Ositrakh himself recorded it only twice: in 1968 “at home” with the composer at the piano (5 minutes shorter than the recent crop of interpreters!) and in 1972 with Sviatoslav Richter on Melodiya 30157, long gone. Richter also played it, however, with violinist Oleg Kagan in 1985 which appears in various collections – a performance I’m sorry I don’t know, although the timings are very close indeed to Kalinovsky’s on Centaur with pianist Tatyana Goncharova.

The Violin Sonata is a late work: no more kowtowing to bureaucratic ukases and implicit punishments for defying them. It is a sober work, often somber, but temperamentally of this world still. The illnesses that led to Shostakovich’s death in seven years later had already begun to manifest themselves individually, but his darkening of spirit in the final three quartets, the last three symphonies, and the viola sonata finished just a month before his death did not yet dominate all of the violin sonata, although it ends as ambiguously as it began with a 12-note series on the piano. Where there is humor it is no longer saucy, much less nose-thumbing, but humor there is, as a rule unexpectedly, and technical brilliance which can make it difficult to play both accurately and beautifully. But Kalinovsky and Goncharova take the most challenging hurdles in stride. What makes their disc unique is all 24 of the Op. 34 keyboard Preludes from 1933 in transcriptions for violin and piano. In the later ‘30s, Dmitri Tziganov, leader of the storied Beethoven Quartet, asked for – and received – permission from Shostakovich to transcribe 19 of the Preludes, which astonished the composer (“When I heard [them] I forgot they were originally written for the piano, so natural did they sound”). But Tziganov rearranged the sequence, and omitted Nos. 4, 7, 9, 14, and 23. Kalinovsky commissioned Lera Auerbach, a Russian-American composer, to complete the set which she did brilliantly in 1999, and in their original order. Dubinsky plays Tziganov’s 19 on his Chandos disc with Edina, but here are all 24. If you have Oistrakh’s version with Richter, by all means keep it – they gave the premiere and were disciples of the composer (along with the cellist Rostropovich) after Stalin’s death. But Centaur’s sound is contemporary, which Melodiya never imagined much less captured.

Ashkenazy’s collection of shorter piano works along with the Second Sonata from 1942 while Stalin still lived, meaning the composer had turned his back on avant-garde earlier pieces that proclaimed him both as a prodigy and an enfant terrible. The most advanced of these were the 10 Aphorisms of 1927, a world apart from the Three Fantastic Dances (1920-22) and the five early Preludes (1919-21). Ashkenazy adds a series of transcriptions including the Spanish Dance from The Gadfly, and ends with the saucy Polka from The Golden Age (lest listeners be stunned by the “Lullaby” that ends the 10 marvelously gnarly Aphorisms). In an age when pianists have turned to conducting with increasing frequency, Ashkenazy is virtually alone in keeping up his keyboard technique, and Decca recorded his recital in Potton Hall in Suffolk with dead-on accuracy in matching subject matter and its execution. Likewise recommended.


R.D. (April 2004)

 

 

SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Sonata, Op. 134. 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, Op. 34 (trans. Dmitri Tziganov and Lera Auerbach)
Grigory Kalinovsky, violin; Tatiana Goncharov, piano
CENTAUR CRC 2636 (F) (DDD) TT: 66:43

 

Both of these collections are superbly recorded, as befits their respective needs, and both are praiseworthy despite some formidable competition in the the cases of the Violin Sonata of 1968, composed for Igor Oistrakh’s 60th birthday, and the Second Piano Sonata of 1942. Centaur’s Grigory Kalinovsky, a Russian-born protégé of Pinchas Zukerman who now teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, has only Rostislav Dubinsky, accompanied by Luba Edina on Chandos, in the same sonic class (Lillian Mordkovich, also on Chandos, is an eccentric interpreter in this instance). Ositrakh himself recorded it only twice: in 1968 “at home” with the composer at the piano (5 minutes shorter than the recent crop of interpreters!) and in 1972 with Sviatoslav Richter on Melodiya 30157, long gone. Richter also played it, however, with violinist Oleg Kagan in 1985 which appears in various collections – a performance I’m sorry I don’t know, although the timings are very close indeed to Kalinovsky’s on Centaur with pianist Tatyana Goncharova.
The Violin Sonata is a late work: no more kowtowing to bureaucratic ukases and implicit punishments for defying them. It is a sober work, often somber, but temperamentally of this world still. The illness that led to Shostakovich’s death in seven years later had already begun to manifest themselves individually, but his darkening of spirit in the final three quartets, the last three symphonies, and the viola sonata finished just a month before his death did not yet dominate all of the violin sonata, although it ends as ambiguously as it began with a 12-note series on the piano. Where there is humor it is no longer saucy, much less nose-thumbing, but humor there is, as a rule unexpectedly, and technical brilliance which can make it difficult to play both accurately and beautifully. But Kalinovsky and Goncharova take the most challenging hurdles in stride. What makes their disc unique is all 24 of the Op. 34 keyboard Preludes from 1933 in transcriptions for violin and piano. In the later ‘30s, Dmitri Tziganov, leader of the storied Beethoven Quartet, asked for – and received – permission from Shostakovich to transcribe 19 of the Preludes, which astonished the composer (“When I heard [them] I forgot they were originally written for the piano, so natural did they sound”). But Tziganov rearranged the sequence, and omitted Nos. 4, 7, 9, 14, and 23. Kalinovsky commissioned Lera Auerbach, a Russian-American composer, to complete the set which she did brilliantly in 1999, and in their original order. Dubinsky plays Tziganov’s 19 on his Chandos disc with Edina, but here are all 24. If you have Oistrakh’s version with Richter, by all means keep it – they gave the premiere and were disciples of the composer (along with the cellist Rostropovich) after Stalin’s death. But Centaur’s sound is contemporary, which Melodiya never imagined much less captured.
Ashkenazy’s collection of shorter piano works along with the Second Sonata from 1942 while Stalin still lived, meaning the composer had turned his back on avant-garde earlier pieces that
proclaimed him both as a prodigy and an enfant terrible. The most advanced of these were the 10 Aphorisms of 1927, a world apart from the Three Fantastic Dances (1920-22) and the five early Preludes (1919-21). Ashkenazy adds a series of transcriptions including the Spanish Dance from The Gadfly, and ends with the saucy Polka from The Golden Age (lest listeners be stunned by the “Lullaby” than ends the 10 marvelously gnarly Aphorisms). In an age when pianists have turned to conducting with increasing frequency, Ashkenazy is virtually alone in keeping up his keyboard technique, and Decca recorded his recital in Potton Hall in Suffolk with dead-on accuracy in matching subject matter and its execution. Likewise recommended.
R.D. (April 2004)