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Russian Soul

Balakirev / Glazunov / Gliere
Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Ars Produktion   Catalog #: 38121   Spars Code: DDD 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RUSSIAN SOUL Yury Revich (vn); Valentina Babor (pn) ARS 38 121 (SACD: 75:15)

KHANDOSHKIN Variations on a Russian Folk Tune. RACHMANINOFF Serenade, Op. 3. Vocalise (arr. Heifetz). Dance hongroise, Op. 6/2. TCHAIKOVSKY Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Swan Lake: Russian Dance, Op. 40/10. Valse-Scherzo , Op. 2. Valse Sentimental, Op. 51/6. PROKOFIEV Violin Sonata No. 2. SHOSTAKOVICH (arr. Tziganov) Preludes, Op. 34/10, 15, 16, and 24. SCRIABIN (arr. Szigeti) Etude, Op. 8/10. GLIÈRE Romance, Op. 3. BALAKIREV Exprompt. GLAZUNOV Meditation, Op. 32. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Tale of the Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee

Yuri Revich and Valentina Babor’s recital of Russian music for Ars includes chestnuts, relatively unfamiliar miniatures, and a major work (Prokofiev’s Second Violin Sonata) that adds a third dimension to the program. Ivan Khandoshkin’s virtuosic Variations on a Russian Folk Tune opens the program with fireworks that many reserve for the end, and Revich proves himself technically alert as well as musically alive. In the Serenade, op. 3, the first of Rachmaninoff’s works for violin to appear on the program (as well as the first composed), Revich displays another side of his musical personality, producing a richly sinuous and allusive tone, especially in the lower registers of his instrument. The Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake , opens with an extremely virtuosic cadenza that fuses Revich’s magisterial tone production and his keen technical command; and the dance proper that follows, by turns piquant and febrile, displays equally convincingly further sides of the violinist’s personality.

Revich and Babor assume a more equal partnership in Prokofiev’s sonata, exploring the first movement’s haunting sensitivity as well as its sardonic melodic and harmonic twists and turns. They strike a middle ground between David Oistrakh’s more serene, flute-like, reading and Nathan Milstein’s more aggressively violinistic one and seem able to switch back and forth both suddenly and effectively between the two. The recorded sound on SACD provides a close and detailed view of the sonata’s mechanism, as well as the technical and musical means by which the performers have realized it. Babor sounds skittish and alert in the scherzo’s opening; and together the performers give a strongly propulsive, sharply defined, account of its capricious leaps and swoops. They seem to adapt just as easily to the slithering, black-silk Andante . In the Allegro con brio that brings the sonata to a close, the duo joins Milstein and his pianist, Artur Balsam, in emphasizing the movement’s dramatic, virtuosic aspects, although Revich shows in an occasional dirty portamento that he’s willing to step outside the box to characterize the lyrical elements. It’s an adrenaline-pumping conclusion to a varied and compelling reading.

In Dmitri Tziganov’s arrangements of four of Shostakovich’s Preludes, op. 34, Revich sounds stylistically elegant and tonally suave (No. 10), by turns energetic and effervescent (No. 15), rhetorically eloquent (No. 16), and puckish (No. 24). Jascha Heifetz’s arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise may have become one of the chestnuts mentioned above, but its familiarity doesn’t prevent an expressive performance like Revich’s from making an impact. Violinist Joseph Szigeti arranged Alexander Scriabin’s Etude, op. 8/10, as a difficult and awkward etude in thirds; Michael Rabin included it in his recording, “Mosaics”; Revich’s sounds tentative beside Rabin’s slashing reading. In Reinhold Glière’s Romance , Revich’s heated eloquence provides the occasion for some uncharacteristically rough tone production; but he plays Rachmaninoff’s Hungarian Dance with heartfelt warmth and bubbling energy. Tziganov rescued Mily Balakirev’s 1874 Exprompt, according to Sarah Grossert’s notes, from a manuscript in the University of Kazan and published it nearly a century later. Revich and Babor make a case for its rescue, although Grossert mentions that the attribution to Balakirev isn’t entirely certain.

Alexander Glazunov’s Meditation seems ideally suited to Revich’s warmly lyrical style; and together, Revich and Babor make of Tchaikovsky’s virtuosic Valse-Scherzo a rhetorical tour de force , flashing with chameleon-like changes of mood. It’s paired with a subtler but no less effective reading of the composer’s Valse Sentimental , op. 51/6. Rimsky-Korsakov’s blockbuster Flight of the Bumblebee opens in this performance with the sharp impact of a gunshot and never diminishes in its excitement from that first stroke. Those who think the bee has swarmed all too many times may change their minds after hearing Revich.

Young violinists used to make their reputations in repertoire such as that on Ars’s release, although they choose nowadays, as Max Gottlieb described such folk in Sinclair Lewis’s book, Arrowsmith , more “measured merriment.” In Revich’s recital with Babor, the merriment fizzes uninhibited. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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