Igor Fedotov / Gary Hammond / Leonid Vechkhayzer

Soviet Russian Viola Music

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Give Naxos credit for its ongoing ability to resurrect worthwhile music from forgotten places and times. The title Soviet Russian Viola Music is unlikely to stir the heart of any except specialists, and the music is apparently obscure even in the Russian-speaking sphere; three of the five pieces heard here have never been recorded before. But none of it is less than attractive, and any work on the disc could serve violists, whose chamber repertoire is notoriously sparse. The music ranges chronologically from the 1920s to the 1970s, and, like other music of the Soviet era, it gets more conservative the later you get; Vladimir Kryukov's Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 15, which had its beginnings in 1920, is close to Scriabin, but the later works are in a more straightforwardly tonal and melodic idiom. Perhaps the most pleasing is Grigory Frid's Sonata for viola, Op. 62/1, with its pair of beautifully sustained slow outer movements. The other work from the 1920s, the multi-section Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 46, of Sergey Vasilenko, has a free structure (not particularly sonata-like, although the opening material returns at the transcendent conclusion) unlike anything else from the early-'20s period when it was written. Violist Igor Fedotov, who teaches at Western Michigan University in the U.S., throws himself into the project with gusto and delivers luminous performances. The first two works on the program, accompanied by Leonid Vechkhayzer, were recorded at a studio in St. Petersburg; in the balance of the music, the equally capable Gary Hammond is the accompanist, but the local church sound in Kalamazoo is less inviting. Fedotov's booklet notes are of the biographical-entry school: not terribly compelling, but useful for music that has almost been forgotten. A nice find for violists and their friends.

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