Miaskovsky, Schnittke, Denisov

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Denisov,Miaskovsky,Schnittke
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sinfonietta, Op. 32/2
PERFORMER: Stepan Arman (violin); I Musici de Montréal/Yuli Turovsky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9891
This is a nicely contrasted programme of 20th-century Russian music for small orchestra, strongly played and well recorded. Miaskovsky’s beautifully crafted Second Sinfonietta seems to be coming into its own as one of his most frequently played works, and there are a number of viable alternative versions, best of all perhaps the Moscow New Opera Orchestra under Yevgeny Samoilov (Olympia), enterprisingly coupled with the other two works in his Op. 32 triptych. Nevertheless, Turovsky turns in a performance almost as good. Likewise in the Schnittke Sonata this new Chandos version with Stepan Arman must be measured against the estimable Daniel Hope (Nimbus), but here I think Arman has the edge, perhaps due to the greater incisiveness of the ensemble and the range of colour in the recording, which better matches Schnittke’s ‘polystylistic’ wealth of heterogeneous invention.

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There are no rivals, however, in Denisov’s Paganini Caprices of 1985, brilliant reworkings of Paganini’s celebrated solo studies set within a contemporary string-orchestra frame. The final movement, on No. 24, is a tour de force that counts as yet another virtuoso set of Paganini Variations on his most famous theme. Arman is again a superb soloist here, creating a dazzling conclusion to a most enjoyable disc.