WORKS: Violin Sonata, Op. 134; 24 Preludes, Op. 34 (arr. Tsyganov & Blok); Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 5 (arr. Glickman)
PERFORMER: Ilya Grubert (violin); Vladimir Tropp (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 16398
Shostakovich’s late Violin Sonata here is not a performance to put alongside Oistrakh and Richter, or indeed the Oleg Kagan/Richter version I reviewed last month. Deeply felt though it is, the emotional expression is too generalised. The poised, almost innocent account of the first movement comes off best. Vladimir Tropp’s accompaniment, in an unexpectedly ponderous reading of the scherzo, sounds little more than piano-bashing, though admittedly he may be hampered by the cavernous acoustic. That creates odd effects elsewhere: the percussive after-echoes in the violin’s pizzicato statement of the passacaglia theme are particularly unfortunate.
More interest inheres in the idiomatic transcriptions of solo piano works, notably the complete cycle of 24 Preludes. Dmitri Tsyganov of the Beethoven Quartet arranged 19 of these for violin and piano within Shostakovich’s lifetime and with his approval; Ilya Grubert has now persuaded the present-day composer Alexander Blok (a descendant of the Symbolist poet, perhaps?) to make a similar realisation of the other five. These pithy miniatures perhaps suit Grubert better than the Sonata – there is some really delicious playing here, though on occasion he rather broadens the satire, or signals a joke too far in advance. The early Fantastic Dances, in another composer-approved transcription, are elegantly done and a rare reminder of the young Shostakovich’s exposure to (and evident appreciation of) both Scriabin and Prokofiev. Calum MacDonald