Absolutely essential for the Viola Sonata but the Gadfly pieces make a superb additional cause for heartfelt recommendation.
Viola Sonata was his last work, written in the final two months of his life. It did not receive its first performance until seven weeks after the composer’s death. Its significance lies not only in that bleak fact; it is also one of the most important works for viola and piano in the canon. The first movement was described by the composer as a ‘novella’, and one wonders indeed if he had a specific book or programme in mind, such is the narrative strength of the music. Power’s performance has some beautifully subtle shadings, as well as a vast range of dynamic, from a fullRead more romantic
cantilena down to the most delicate
pizzicato and an absolutely spine-chilling whisper of sound in
tremolo on the bridge.
The second movement opens with a reworking of comparatively lightweight material from Shostakovich’s unfinished opera on Gogol’s
The Gamblers, but soon develops a more disturbing undertow as he moves into newly composed material. The opera was left unfinished shortly before Shostakovich was attacked by the Soviet establishment during the Zhdanov purge, and one wonders whether his quotation of this music and the way he subsequently undermines it might have autobiographical significance. Certainly there is no doubt about such significance in the finale, where Shostakovich interweaves quotations from all fifteen of his symphonies (and other works) into an extensive free fantasia built around a paraphrase of the opening of Beethoven’s
Moonlight Sonata. As always in late Shostakovich – one thinks of the
Fifteenth Symphony, for example – the composer’s quotations from other composers have point; in the symphony
William Tell represents freedom, and the use of the ‘fate’ motif from Wagner’s
Ring is self-explanatory; but the significance of the Beethoven is not so easy to read, especially since it extends its far-reaching tentacles in one way or another throughout the movement. David Fanning in his booklet note suggests that Shostakovich was aware that his death from lung cancer was imminent, and that he knew this sonata would be his last work. If so, he remained enigmatic to the very end. The performance from Power is matched by a stupendous rendition of the piano part by Crawford-Phillips, who matches his partner’s huge dynamic span with playing that ranges from a massive roar of protest to a barely audible whisper. This is a superb recording of a very important piece.
Shostakovich wrote no other works specifically for the combination of viola and piano, but both the sets of arrangements that make up the remainder of this disc were made during his lifetime and presumably with his consent and blessing. One cannot however say that Strakhov’s arrangements of seven of the piano
Preludes add very much to the original. In some places there is a feeling that he is trying desperately and not always successfully to find something worthwhile for the viola to add. He gives titles to each of the movements (which Shostakovich did not) and this hints at the fact that Strakhov may have felt the need to justify his arrangement – although Shostakovich also approved versions of the
Preludes for violin and piano.
On the other hand, Borisovsky’s arrangement of five pieces from
The Gadfly are an absolutely stunning piece of work. The famous
Romance works splendidly; but the whole selection shows a real rethinking of the film score in terms of viola and piano, and the opening
Scene has a grand romantic sweep that totally transcends the cinematographic origins of the music. The
Barrel-organ waltz brings a stunning use of viola harmonics which must be absolutely fiendish to play, but which Power makes sound not only natural and easy but also funny. The concluding
Folk festival is yet another Shostakovich lollipop on the same level at the
Romance – which, by the way, Power and Crawford-Phillips make sound new-minted.
This disc is absolutely essential for the
Viola Sonata but the
Gadfly pieces make a superb additional cause for heartfelt recommendation. The recorded sound is truthful and present, with just the right halo of resonance around the players who are superbly balanced with each other. The cover illustration, as so often with Hyperion, is superbly chosen and suitably atmospheric.
-- Paul Corfield Godfrey, MusicWeb International Read less
Gadfly Suite, Op. 97a: Sceneby Dmitri Shostakovich Performer:
Lawrence Power (Viola),
Simon Crawford-Phillips (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1955; USSR
Featured Sound Samples
Viola Sonata: II. Allegretto
Gadfly Suite: Folk Festival
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Viva ShostakovichJune 17, 2012By t. mcgrath (san juan bautista, CA)See All My Reviews" I've been on a Shostakovich kick for some time now, but this CD even surpassed my high expectations. The playing was brilliant and the technical production is as good as it gets. The CD is a treasure!!!"Report Abuse
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