Tuesday 3 July 2018

Russian Romantics: music for violin & piano by Glinka, Glazunov, Cui, Rubenstein, & more

Russian Romantics - Hideko Udagawa
Glinka, Rubinstein, Glazunov, Kosenko Gliere, Cui; Hideko Udagawa, Alexander Panfilov; Northern Flowers  
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 June 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Music of great melodic charm, lesser known Russian works for violin and piano
Having recorded discs of Khachaturian and of Rachmaninov, violinst Hideko Udagawa returns to Russian repertoire with a recital with pianist Alexander Panfilov, on the Northern Flowers label, centred upon Glinka's sonata, originally for viola and piano and here given its premiere recording in the version for violin and piano, alongside music by Cesar Cui, Alexander Glazunov, Anton Rubinstein, and Viktor Kosenko.

Glinka's viola sonata dates from early in his career, 1825/26, in fact the viola was an instrument he played. For some reason the work is unfinished, the second movement was left incomplete and Glinka never seems to have written the final rondo. In 1932 the Russian viola player Vadim Beresovsky edited the two movements, providing a completion of the second. It is played here in a version for violin and piano, transposed up a fifth so that the instrument's open strings remain in the same relation to the music.

It is a substantial work, the first movement Allegro lasting over nine minutes and the second movement Larghetto over eight. The Allegro is attractively melodic, characterful with hints of drama. Glinka's style is reminiscent perhaps of Weber, and with such a big movement it threatens to almost outstay its welcome. Udagawa plays with a lovely strong tone and a nice hint of portamento. In the second movement she brings out the lyrical quality with a lovely singing tone. She follows this with a further work, an arrangement by Vasily Safonov (1852-1918) of Glinka's Mazurka in E, a delightful short piece.

Rheinhold Gliere's best known work seems to remain the concerto for coloratura soprano, though his catalogue includes symphonies and the ballet The Red Poppy. His Romance in D is a lyrical movement dating from 1902 and demonstrates Gliere's mastery of the violin (he was a fne violinist). Cesar Cui's Deux Morceaux for violin and orchestra date from 1884 and we hear the first of them in Cui's arrangement for violin and piano. Serenata all Sapgnuola is clearly Spanish in style, but the Russian dance elements creep in too, played with rich throbbing tone. Udagawa provides lots of singing tone in Alexander Glazunov's Meditation which dates from 1892.

Viktor Kossenko was a composer and violinst who died from cancer at the age of 42. Born in St Petersburg his family moved to Warsaw where he studied. Two Pieces Op.4, 'Dreams' and 'Impromptu' date from 1918. These combine a natural lyricism with a fondness for chromaticism and rich harmonies; a definitely interesting voice, and these performances make you want to explore his music further. The first, 'Dreams' is rather thoughful and developing intense passion, whilst the second 'Impromtu' is akin to a vigorous scherzo and receives a vibrant performance from Udagawa and Panfilov.

Anton Rubinstein was a major figure in Russian music, though his output is not that well known today apart from a few pieces. His Sonata for viola and piano was written in 1855, and here we hear the middle Andante in a version for violin and piano. A delicate violin solo leads to a lovely lyrical melody with flowing piano accompaniment, a song without words. His Romance in E flat is somewhat lighter in vein, delightful in its way, whilst the Melody in F is his best known piece.

The disc finishes with a further pair of pieces by Glazunov, his Sonatina originally written for piano and here heard in a version for violin and piano, and the 'Grande Adagio' from the ballet Raymonda. Both have an elegant melodic style with some characteristic elaborations for the violin.

The Russian school of violin playing was both important and influential, yet the vein of works for violin and piano which this generated is not that well known. On this disc Hideko Udagawa has unearthed a variety of attractive and lyrical works for violin and piano, full of melodic beauty. Throughout she is finely partnered by pianist Alexander Panfilov.

There is much music of great charm on this disc, and we must be grateful to the performers for giving us the chance to hear it. Many will be taken by the great melodic beauty of the pieces, but for me only occasionally did the music really develop more than charm

Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) - Sonata for violin & piano
Mikhail Glinka- Mazurka in E minor
Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956) - Romance in B minor
Cesar Cui (1835-1918) - Alla Spagnuola in A minor
Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) - Meditation
Viktor Kosenko (1896-1938) - Two Pieces Op.4
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) - Andante in F minor from Op.49
Anton Rubinstein - Romance in E flat
Anton Rubinstein - Melody in F
Alexander Glazunov - Sonatina
Alexander Glazunov - Grande Adagio from Raymonda
Hideko Udagawa (violin)
Alexander Panfilov (piano)
Recorded in St Silas' Church, London, 25-26 September 2017
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Powerful & emotional stuff: Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse at RCM Double Bill - Opera review
  • What a delightful voice: getting to know the music of Francesco Gasparini (★★★★) - CD review
  • Coming into focus: Kasper Holten's production of Don Giovanni returns to the Royal Opera  (★★★★★) - Opera review
  • A great big present: Stephen Medcalf on returning to Buxton to direct his favourite piece, Idomeneo  - interview
  • Handel's finest arias for base voice - Christopher Purves, Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo (★★★★★)  - CD review
  • Story-telling in America: Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Each a world unto itself: Arvo Pärt The Symphonies (★★★★) - CD review
  • Intimate, candid and completely fascinating: The Tchaikovsky Papers - unlocking the family archive (★★★★) - book review
  • Notable debuts & a veteran director: Die Entführung aus dem Serail from the Grange Festival - opera review
  • Vivid drama: Handel's Agrippina at The Grange Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Home


  1. Anonymous2:39 pm

    What is that artwork? it looks like something out of a studio Ghibli film

    1. Apologies, I can't seem to track the CD down in my library so cannot check what the cover is.



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