Shostakovich • Schumann • Britten

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COMPOSERS: Benjamin Britten,Dimitri Shostakovich,Robert Schumann
LABELS: Champs Hill
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich • Schumann • Britten: Works for Viola and Piano
WORKS: Viola Sonata op. 147, Märchenbilder op. 113, Lachrymae op. 48
PERFORMER: Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola), Katya Apekisheva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD029

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This warmly recorded performance of Shostakovich’s swansong presents a somewhat different approach to the music compared with Lawrence Power’s release on Hyperion. Power and his pianist, Simon Crawford-Phillips, are focused on extracting the maximum amount of colour and nuance from this spare and emotionally elusive score, whereas Krzysztof Chorzelski and Katya Apekisheva seem more concerned with ensuring that the few dramatic sections in the work are projected with the greatest immediacy. As a result, the sudden explosion of anguish in the middle section of the first movement sounds even more impassioned here, particularly after the relatively neutral and deliberately colourless account of the opening pages. On the other hand, while Chorzelski and Apekisheva offer some magically intense quiet playing near the close of the Finale, their more expansive tempo makes it harder for them to achieve the same architectural cogency as Power and Crawford-Phillips in the discursive passages.

Britten’s Lachrymae, composed 25 years earlier, inhabits a similarly dark and brooding world to the Shostakovich. Chorzelski negotiates its contrasts in texture between each of the variations most effectively, moving inexorably from the stillness and mystery of the earlier sections, to the warmth and poignancy of the Dowland quotation near the close.

Standing somewhat apart from these two works is the Schumann Märchenbilder. Here Chorzelski resists the obvious temptation to apply too much rubato to the harmonic twists and turns of the melancholic first movement. He finds a moving childlike simplicity in the final piece, though might have offered an even more impulsive delivery of the raging triplets in the preceding movement.

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Erik Levi