Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Delos
WORKS: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Mikhail Simonyan (violin), Alexei Podkorytov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3385

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What is it about the city of Novosibirsk that produces great violinists? Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin could soon be joined in the pantheon by fast-developing Mikhail Simonyan. Let’s not overlook fellow Siberian, pianist Alexei Podkorytov, either.

He forges a real partnership with Simonyan in the essential work here, the dark and tragic First Violin Sonata: within bars you can tell the soloist is treading on an earth of shakes and tremors.

Both sense the depths here as many western partnerships do not. Simonyan may go a little far by declaring in the booklet that he sees ‘Stalin’s face’ in the second movement’s bite, not to mention ‘the death of Russia and the victory of hell’ at the very end (pace Simonyan, isn’t it significant that the Sonata in fact ends, however uneasily, in F major?) but these are steps in the right direction.

Simonyan studied with a pupil of David Oistrakh, his ‘musical hero…one hundred percent’ and Prokofiev’s violinist of choice. But that’s a daunting comparison to have to face, and setting this alongside the Oistrakh-Richter partnership, you realise there can be still more chilly atmosphere in the famous ‘wind in the graveyard’ runs and chords, more acerbic spirit in the dance.

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The Second Sonata which Prokofiev transcribed for Oistrakh from the original for flute and piano may
seem lighter, though one can imagine more nuanced sweetness and fantasy than the forthright, clean-pitching and forwardly recorded Simonyan finds here. David Nice