Soviet Russian Viola Music
This release should appeal to three types of people: those that want to further explore Soviet-era music; those that want to further explore the sound of the often-neglected viola; and those (like me) who want to do both.
Violist Igor Fedotov recently completed an exhaustive study of Russian 20th Century viola music, and this release is one of the results of that research. Fedotov presents five works for viola and piano, each by a different composer, spanning a good portion of the Soviet era.
The earliest work is a sonata by Sergey Nikiforovich Vasilenko. His 1923 sonata rolls from one highly dramatic and expressive melody to another. By contrast, Vladimir Nikolayevich Kryukov's sonata, completed in 1933, betrays the composer's love of Scriabin, giving it a somewhat exotic sound.
Bridging the early and late works on the album is a 1956 sonata by Valerian Mikhaylovich Bogdanov-Berezovsky, a close friend of Shostakovich. Bodgnaov-Berezovsky's is perhaps the most traditional in structure, but he still packs many original ideas into this short work.
Two compositions from the 1970's round out the release. A sonata by Grigory Samulovich Frid (1971) and one by Yulian Grigo'yevich Krein (1973). In these works, one can hear elements of atonality and other Western compositional gestures sneak in -- held firmly in check by the overarching tonality of the works. By contextualizing some of these avant-garde elements, these compositions have both an immediate appeal, and enough depth to reward repeated listening.
Igor Fedotov performs with easy assurance. It's clear he knows these works intimately, and can play to the strengths of the music. The viola has a slightly lower range than the violin, giving it a warm, rich tone. In proper hands (like Fedotov's) it can be just as nimble and expressive as the violin, although it hasn't really been until the 20th Century that composers really started to explore the soloistic potential of the instrument. These works were written primarily to showcase the viola, and Fedotov does not disappoint.
Soviet Russian Viola Music fills in two gaps: it presents five talented Russian composers who are virtually unknown in the West, and it brings five more outstanding compositions to the solo viola repertoire. Not bad for one release.