Russian Violin Concertos

Sergey Ostrovsky / Thomas Sanderling

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Russian Violin Concertos Review

by V. Vasan

Conus, Weinberg, and Arensky have each written works that are unique in character, but the prodigious talents of Sergey Ostrovsky (with the brilliant Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Sanderling) are the unifying factor on this excellent CD. Conus' Violin Concerto is made of eight micro-movements, each with a different tempo marking. After a romantic orchestral beginning that heralds its arrival, the violin enters with a spinning, shimmering sound that maintains a beautiful supple tension throughout the lines. It is a perfect example of what one desires in an archetypal virtuoso violin. The moods shift rapidly over time, with the general arc of moving from the more energetic to the somber and back to the energetic. Ostrovsky's violin positively sings, and he has no problems with technique: his right and left hands are in perfect synchronization. The orchestra matches the violinist's level of intensity and energy, always giving its all, no holds barred. His cadenza, though played into the string, is not too weighty; Ostrovsky bows with a liquid, lyrical sound. He truly has something to say as an artist, his musical statements are indeed decisive. The Weinberg Concertino's first movement is cantabile indeed, for Ostrovsky's violin sings lightly and sweetly. There is a repeated motif with interesting rhythms and a melody that is not completely tonal. The string orchestra echoes this melody, or plays its own layers of music, one on top of each other. The odd cadenza of the second movement features different textures, such as courts, pizzicato, legato, and runs. The orchestra reminds one of Vaughan Williams with its unusual tonality. The music reaches for something with a sense of yearning. The final movement reveals Ostrovsky's perfect technique in the repeating patterns as well as his excellent sense of rhythm. The album's concluding work by Arensky is indeed romantic and emotional, and yet not overdone. There is just enough of a dramatic orchestral beginning to signal the arrival of Ostrovsky's violin, which is moving, passionate, and sweet. There is enough motion and mystery built into the music; it engages the listener, and one wants to follow where the music leads. Like the Conus violin concerto, there are several micro-movements, with clear transitions. The Allegro is appropriately playful, and the Tempo di valse lilts and sways. Ostrovsky has certainly picked repertoire that suits him perfectly, as well as an orchestra that perfectly suits him. The only thing to detract from the overall high quality of this listening experience is the recording quality, which is often too faint in piano dynamic passages.

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