“Russian Soul” = Works of RACHMANINOFF, TCHAIKOVSKY, PROKOVIEV, SHOSTAKOVICH, SCRIABIN, GLAZUNOV, GLIERE, RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Etc. – Yury Revich, violin/ Valentina Babor, p. – Ars Produktion

by | Feb 16, 2013 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Russian Soul” = IVAN KHANDOSHKIN: Variations on a Russian Folk Tune; RACHMANINOFF:  Serenade, Op. 3; Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 (arr. Jasha Heifetz); Dance Hongroise, Op. 6 No. 2; TCHAIKOVSKY: Russian Dance, Op. 40 No. 10 from the Ballet “Swan Lake“; Valse Scherzo, Op. 2; Valse Sentimental, Op. 51 No. 6
PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, Op. 94; SHOSTAKOVICH: 4 Piano Preludes, Op. 34 Nos. 10, 15, 16, and 24 (arr. Dmitri Tziganov); SCRIABIN: Etude, Op. 8 No. 10 (arr. Joseph Szigeti); GLIÈRE: Romance, Op. 3; BALAKIREV: Expromt; GLAZUNOV: Meditation, Op. 32; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: “Flight of the Bumblebee” from the Opera Tsar Saltan – Yury Revich, violin/ Valentina Babor, p. – Ars Produktion multichannel SACD ARS 38 121, 75:15 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

Violinist Yury Revich, just twenty years old at the time of this recording in 2012, is junior ambassador for Amadeus International School Vienna. This distinction has brought him engagements at important venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Musikverein, as well as gigs with orchestras of international stature, such as the Russian National Orchestra. In the current program, Revich pairs with a comparative oldster, Munich-born pianist Valentina Babor (age twenty-five), a student of Gerhard Oppitz and András Schiff, among others. As expected, they bring a youthful verve to a program that is heavy on light classics of the violin-piano repertory yet with some excursions into the unusual. These include a work by Ivan Khandoshkin (1747–1804), first violinist with the Imperial Court Orchestra in St. Petersburg. While he was trained by the Italian violinist Tito Porta, also of the court orchestra, he is represented here by Variations on a Russian Folk Tune, which must place him among forerunners of Glinka in exploiting Russian folk music, which eventually led to the establishment of a national style. Unfortunately (or fortunately, since I don’t have any evidence one way or the other), Revich and Babor include only “a sample” from the Variations.

At the other end of the spectrum in terms of completeness and compositional heft is Prokofiev’s four-movement Violin Sonata No. 2. While it permits both musicians to make a statement in a more extended musical space, even here we have, to some extent, Prokofiev Lite. In contradistinction to the more serious Sonata No. 1, the Second Sonata was conceived originally for flute and piano and so is both texturally and emotionally less ponderous in content. It’s still always welcome on any program of Russian violin music.

The remainder of the program offers thrice-familiar works in arrangement (“The Russian Dance” from Swan Lake, the ubiquitous Vocalise, Flight of the Bumblebee), semi-familiar works in arrangement (Shostakovich’s Piano Preludes and Scriabin’s Etude), and some less-well-known pieces whose attractiveness is the only endorsement they need. And Revich has chosen well: the works by Glière, Balakirev, and Glazunov offer the kind of heart-on-sleeve Romanticism and gorgeous melody that we expect from turn-of-the-century Russia. There are more fireworks in the Rachmaninoff Dance Hongroise and the more-or-less familiar Tchaikovsky Valse Scherzo.

Needless to say, Revich is not in the least taxed interpretively or technically by any of this music, which can also be said of his able accompanist. His selections are tasteful, his performances beyond cavil; it’s a fine specimen of Revich’s talents at this point in his career, as well as an enjoyable program balancing the familiar with the very welcome unfamiliar. Revich doesn’t seem possessed of the commandingly large, “fat” sound you associate with Russian violinists of the past—Oistrakh and Kogan, for example. By comparison, Revich’s tone seems very pure but somewhat “slender.” But then again, this isn’t repertoire designed to show off all facets of the violinist’s art. Future recording projects, I hope, will do just that.

As I’ve come to expect, Ars Produktion’s SACD recording is a model of what chamber music should sound like on a playback system in the home; there’s pinpoint accuracy in the placement of the instruments, plus a thrilling sense of depth and ambiance. If the program appeals and if you want to get to know a fresh new talent of the violin, this is a very recommendable release.

—Lee Passarella

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