Shostakovich/Glinka/Roslavets

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich/Glinka/Roslavets
LABELS: RCA
WORKS: Viola Sonata Op. 147; Viola Sonata; Viola Sonata
PERFORMER: Yuri Bashmet (viola); Mikhail Muntian (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61273-2 DDD
Late Shostakovich is full of nostalgic echoes, like the music of his compatriot, Schnittke. The Viola Sonata, his last completed work, shares the emotional concentration of the late quartets. Its spare, searching first movement is nursed along by an unsettled keyboard bass line, with reminders of the bleaker symphonies in the lachrymose descending motif. His curious filtering of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which preoccupies the long final Adagio, catches one completely off guard. Both instruments are well defined in a distinctively clean acoustic.

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For many, the ‘unknown’ here will be Nikolai Roslavets, a Russian experimentalist who sought, independently of Schoenberg, to restructure turn-of-the-century chromaticism. The one-movement sonata’s appassionato opening combines a Brahmsian feel with the uncertain tonality and expansive pianism of Reger and Scriabin. What is most fascinating is the way his advanced Romanticism unexpectedly acquires a modernist demeanour towards the end. A highly impassioned, well-judged performance.

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Glinka never completed this early Schubert-indebted sonata. Here we have just two movements: the thinnish development is disappointing, but its salon-like tunefulness is delightfully captured. This is Bashmet at his most lyrical, and provides a welcome, if not entirely apt, filler. Roderic Dunnett