LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Rothschild’s Violin; From Jewish Folk-Poetry
PERFORMER: Sergei Leiferkus, Marina Shaguch, Larissa Diadkova, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Ilya LevinskyRotterdam PO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68434 2
After Shostakovich’s death Rozhdestvensky became the principal advocate of Rothschild’s Violin, Benjamin Fleischmann’s forty-minute opera based on a Chekhov story. Now he has put on record a first-rate Rotterdam performance. The work’s impact is out of proportion to its slight subject matter: a tale of small-town musicians and of Bronze, an embittered coffin-maker and violinist, who becomes aware of impending death – that of his neglected wife, then of his own. Stirred by the sight of a gnarled old tree, he re-examines the world about him and, shortly before the close, presents his violin to Rothschild, the Jewish flautist he constantly bullied. Rothschild’s violin-playing characterises the radiant close.
In 1941 or 1942 (exact date unknown) Fleischmann, a young Shostakovich pupil, was killed defending Leningrad. Before enlisting he had finished the short score and partly orchestrated the opera. Shostakovich completed it in 1943 – but for political reasons it was not premiered until 1960.
In vocal writing, sound-world, and wry approach to tonality, it will be deemed Shostakovian; nevertheless, it leaves a powerful impression of Fleischmann’s pungently economical vocal writing and emotional range, and adds significantly to our knowledge of 20th-century Russian opera.
Bronze is a magnificent role for the mature Sergei Leiferkus, whose darkened baritone accommodates bass depths and melancholy tints with sovereign mastery. A gently affecting account of Shostakovich’s haunting Jewish folk-poem settings makes an ideal filler. Max Loppert