Chavdar Parashkevov / Natasha Kislenko

Russian Sonatas by Prokofiev, Schnittke & Nikolayev

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Violinist Chavdar Parashkevov and pianist Natasha Kislenko are stellar artists who play a trio of very different works by Russian composers. Nikolayev's sonata is the most passionate of the three works on the album, and arguably the most interesting. Parashkevov's violin has a sense of levity but is not lightweight, while Kislenko's piano is agile and keeps up with the violinist. The attention to phrasing is excellent, and one can feel Parashkevov's bow strokes as they bounce along or attack the high notes with perfect precision. The first movement is full of fire, with emotional expressiveness as the music implores and pleads. This gives way to a lyrical tenderness in the second movement, which shows that both artists are highly capable of switching moods as the music dictates. The third movement demonstrates how this is truly a sonata for both instruments, with each voice holding equal importance. Parashkevov and Kislenko work beautifully together, and they keep the music exciting and modern. The Prokofiev sonata is of a very different character: it is moody, with shifting tonality. The Presto treats the listener to an active piece of music, which sounds more like what one expects of Prokofiev in its tonality. Parashkevov articulates the notes very clearly, while the pianist never misses a note on the runs or in the rhythms. The legato violin passages flow beautifully with a solid tone, complemented by accents on the piano in the Andante, which also has its bright and sparkling passages. The Schnittke Suite (Sonata) is a huge departure from the first two sonatas on the album; a throwback to "the old style," it recalls Bach at times, with a sense of structure that comes through the musicians' interpretation. The piano and violin chase each other in the Pastorale, and the clean and simple violin lines are evident in the Fugue. One hears a somber, delicate piano in the Minuet, nothing like the impassioned artist in the Nikolayev sonata. In fact, this entire work is performed with a very simple, elegant style. Even when they play lightly and without great ornamentation, as in the "Pantomime," Parashkevov and Kislenko never lack energy. These two artists are so gifted that the uneventful ending of the Suite (and therefore the album) is a great disappointment; perhaps the artists could have included another piece that would conclude with a bang. The other great disappointment is the recording quality. While beautifully clear, sometimes it is just too soft. Otherwise, highly recommended.

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