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Kapustin • Ravel • Shostakovich: Preludes, Op. 34 etc

Roberts Balanas (violin), Siqian Li (piano) (Linn Records)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Kasputin • Ravel • Shostakovich
Shostakovich: Preludes, Op. 34 Nos 16 & 17; Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte; Violin Sonata in G; Kapustin: Violin Sonata, Op. 70
Roberts Balanas (violin), Siqian Li (piano)
Linn Records CKD 664 (digital only)   43:01 mins

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Jazz is only one facet of a mercurial Ravel classic, but very much the driving force of Nikolai Kapustin’s Violin Sonata of 1992. That ought to be the talking point of this digital release. Yet there are no notes beyond the context – that this is part of the Royal Academy of Music’s Bicentenary Series on Linn, and a bit about the violinist, Roberts Balanas, now bidding for fame alongside his siblings, violinist Kristīne and cellist Margarita. Nor is there any information about the pianist, Siqian Li: a shame, as she’s an equal partner in these intricate works. The chief pleasure is the intertwining of the musicianly lines in the Ravel, its outer movements fleet and glistening, the bitonalities scintillating. I’ve heard more in-your-face interpretations of the central ‘Blues’, but the naturalness has its own charm. Admittedly, the famous Pavane started life as a piano piece, but when I hear the violin in Louis Fleury’s arrangement, I always long for the horn of the orchestral version; it’s a decent enough encore.

The two Shostakovich/Tsyganov interludes give the ear a rest from complexity, though they’re not without their subtle quirks. And what effortless dazzle there is in Kapustin’s work, which sounds improvisational at times but is fully written out – the work of a composer who made his living in jazz but never thought of himself as exclusively jazz-oriented. It’s not profound, but the dash of melancholy in the central movement and the sudden ferocity towards the end keep it from sounding facile. And it’s given me an appetite to hear his 20 piano sonatas.

David Nice

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