AUERBACH & SHOSTAKOVICH – “Ballet of a Lonely Violinist” – Vadim Gluzman, violin/ Angela Yoffe, piano – BIS

by | May 25, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

AUERBACH & SHOSTAKOVICH – “Ballet of a Lonely Violinist” – Vadim Gluzman, violin/ Angela Yoffe, piano – BIS-CD-1592, 67:16 ****1/2:

This deeply affecting disc features pieces from two notable artists from the twentieth and twenty-first century: Dimitry Shostakovich and Lera Auerbach. They are oddly similar, even though the pieces are from opposite ends of the composers’ careers. Shostakovich’s late Violin Sonata is an austere work that zones in on vast themes that dogged Beethoven in his last years: mortality and betrayal, truth and morality. Written during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, it features a tenuous dialog between the instruments in the first movement and stirring, severely virtuosic playing in the second. The work contains lots of semitonal oscillatory figures that critics think suggest many things: heartbeats, breathing, brain waves, even moral vacillation. It’s keenly disturbing and masterfully played.

One piece whose mood jars with the tone of this CD is Gluzman’s transcription of Shostakovich’s light and hokey Jazz Suite No. 1. I understand its purpose (comic relief) and it is well arranged. But it sprays seltzer on the mood. Lera Auerbach is no stranger to violin-piano works, having released a marvelous CD a few years back called 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano. Her fifteen-minute Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano is strikingly innovative, one that engages the listener from its first intense bars. It’s subtitled “September 11,” and soon introduces an elegiac theme that’s woven throughout the piece. Also included are three mystifying quotes from America the Beautiful–mystifying because of the form they take. The fragments never fully resolve, unlike the Americana that Charles Ives often inserts. In fact, the final one deconstructs at a high register, then withers on the vine. What do they mean? That America after the attacks is battered but not beaten? That the government response lacks resolution? Or that something sinister has occurred, raising troubling questions? Ambiguity of intent often surfaces when a composer introduces patriotic melodies into such a complex and arch piece. Her Lonely Suite (Ballet for a Lonely Violinist) is a solo violin piece well-played by Vadim Gluzman. Its melodies have dissonant semi-jazzy attitudes, with wry figures peppered throughout. Each piece wears an evocative title like Dancing with Oneself, Imaginary Dialog, and Worrisome Thought. Auerbach the poet is much in evidence here, as  is her sense of drama. An excellent disc.

— Peter Bates

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