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Russian Baroque - Chamber Music From Court Of St. Petersburg


Release Date: 11/13/2007 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 516260   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Josef StarzerAnton Ferdinand TitzPierre BaillotLuigi Madonis,   ... 
Performer:  Nikolai PetuchovLiubov SokolovaOlga KhomenkaVladimir Reva,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 22 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CHAMBER MUSIC FROM THE COURT OF ST. PETERSBURG Russian Baroque Ens ARTE NOVA 516260 (2 CDs: 141:42)


STARZER Divertimento in a. TITZ String Quartet in G. Violin Sonata in f?. BAILLOT Air russe varié. MADONIS 12 Sonatas for Violin and Bass. BEREZOVSKY Read more class="ARIAL12b">Violin Sonata. STEIBELT Variations on 2 Russian Folksongs


This is a reissue of a set that originally came out in 1998, but apparently was not reviewed in these pages (at least, I could not find it in the Archives under the title, composers’ names, or ensemble name). For those readers who may feel that I am unduly critical of other early music composers, or performers, I commend them to prolonged exposure to this remarkable set.


This was music composed, sadly, for background purposes only: for czars and czarinas, counts, countesses, and dukes to have their dinners, talk meaninglessly about their boring lives, perhaps play gambling games. I say “sadly” because this is all music of good quality, not perhaps on the most exalted level of Haydn, Mozart, or the Bachs, yet consistently interesting, engaging, and inventive. In short, this music sparkles as much as it captivates, and it performs both functions in a way that belies its intended purpose.


From the very first notes of Joseph Starzer’s Divertimento, we enter a work of indelible charm but also one that has an undercurrent of melancholy beneath its enchanting surface. The development sections are very well written, not only for the ensemble itself but also for each individual part, and it all dovetails with an understated excellence. Anton Titz’s String Quartet is a more stately affair, but not stodgy in the least; and the violin Variations on a Russian Air by Pierre Baillot (the professional name of violinist Marie-François de Sales) is one of the most arresting works in the entire collection.


The second CD is not just equally delightful, but even better music, featuring short “symphonies” by Luigi Madonis, a violin-harpsichord sonata by Maxim Berezovsky, excellent variations on two Russian folksongs for piano, and ending with another work by Titz, a sonata for violin and piano. Here, the development sections of each work are extremely well realized and dovetail nicely. I shall refrain, for the sake of space, from going into too much description. Suffice to say that this is music well worth hearing at least once, and its appeal will undoubtedly lead you to repeated hearings.


But I have yet to describe the very best thing about this recording, and that is the simply astonishing playing of the group that calls itself Russian Baroque Ensemble. Violinists Vladimir Reva and Olga Khomenko, violist Loubov Sokolova, cellist Nikolai Petuchov, harpsichordist Eugeni Rubacha, and pianist Irina Ermakova give as good an example of how to play 18th-century music as I have heard from any chamber group in my entire life. While retaining features of the historically informed school, they do not eschew lyricism, dynamics, expression, or a flowing sound, all of which not only enhance but also elevate this music above the mundane. Indeed, I am certain that a great deal of my enjoyment of this double CD stems as much from their treatment of the music as from the music itself. I commend this album to very serious listening by any individuals or groups entering the historical-practices field; it will turn your ideas around and show you that there are alternatives to playing everything in a dull or monochromatic manner.


Overall, perhaps, this music will never rival the very highest achievements of the greatest composers of the era, but I found it a delightful introduction to music I did not know. The recorded sound is splendid and natural. What a shame that this appears to have been the only album made by this extraordinary group!


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Divertimento for 2 Violins, Viola & Cello in A minor by Josef Starzer
Performer:  Nikolai Petuchov (Cello), Liubov Sokolova (Viola), Olga Khomenka (Violin),
Vladimir Reva (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Classical 
2. Quartet for Strings in G major by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Performer:  Nikolai Petuchov (Cello), Olga Khomenka (Violin), Vladimir Reva (Violin),
Liubov Sokolova (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: Russia 
3. Air russe varié, Op. 11 by Pierre Baillot
Performer:  Nikolai Petuchov (Cello), Olga Khomenka (Violin), Liubov Sokolova (Viola),
Vladimir Reva (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1810; France 
4. Sonatas (12) for Violin and Double Bass by Luigi Madonis
Performer:  Eugeni Rubacha (Harpsichord), Vladimir Reva (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1731; Russia 
5. Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in C by Maxim Berezovsky
Performer:  Eugeni Rubacha (Harpsichord), Vladimir Reva (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: Russia 
6. Variations on a Russian Folk Song for Piano by Maxim Berezovsky
Performer:  Irina Ermakova (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: Russia 
7. Variations on Two Russian Folk Songs for Piano by Daniel Steibelt
Performer:  Irina Ermakova (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: Russia 
8. Sonata for Violin and Piano in F sharp minor by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Performer:  Vladimir Reva (Violin), Irina Ermakova (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Baroque Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: Russia 

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