Sviatoslav Richter Archives Vol. 20 = JANACEK: Concertino for Piano; HINDEMITH: Sonata for Viola and Piano; Piano Sonata No. 2; Sonata for Bassoon and Piano; Sonata for Trumpet and Piano – Doremi

by | Jun 14, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Sviatoslav Richter Archives Vol. 20 = JANACEK: Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra; HINDEMITH: Sonata for Viola and Piano in F Major, Op. 11, No. 4; Piano Sonata No. 2 (1936); Sonata for Bassoon and Piano; Sonata for Trumpet and Piano – Sviatoslav Richter, piano/Yuri Bashmet, viola /Andris Arnitsans, bassoon/Vladimir Zikov, trumpet/ Moscow Conservatory Ch. Orch./Yuri Nikolayevsky – Doremi DHR-7999, 69:52 [Distr. By Allegro] ****:

Doremi extends the significant legacy of Russian virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) with a series of live performances from Budapest and Moscow, 1978-1985.  Certainly the anomalous work on the program, the 1925 Janacek Concertino in a 1980 Moscow performance–long a part of the Rudolf Firkusny staple of Janacek works he championed–adds a distinctive color piece to the Richter discography.
Played as one continuous movement, the Janacek Concertino falls into four sections, to which Janacek added a commentary in 1927: the theme from the first movement is compared to “grumpy hedgehog”; clarinet in the second movement to “fidgety squirrel”; atmosphere of the third part is compared to “night owl and other night animals”; and the last movement is considered by the composer as the “scene from a fairy-tale, where everybody argues.” The first movement contains only horn and piano, the second only clarinet and piano. Other instruments join in the third and fourth movements. Percussive and angular, much of the work corresponds to Janacek’s idiosyncratically modal notion of Slavic beauty. The third movement features runs, repeated notes, and block chords in declamatory style for Richter against harshly stringent work in the strings. The influence of Bartok makes itself felt as the rhythmic motion fritters and skitters forward with irascible energy. The colors at the final pages assume a distinctly oriental cast then thunder ahead with the passionate aggression we know from the Bartok concertos. At the last chord, the audience goes quite wild.
The Hindemith Sonata in F Minor for his chosen instrument, the viola and piano, Op. 11, No. 4 (1919) ranks among his best works for this medium, though pianists complain about the ungainliness of the keyboard part. The first movement–Maessig schnell–moves along the lines of a fantasia in the Franck style touched by Brahms. Yuri Bashmet plies the viola part elegantly, his tone firm and full in this performance from Budapest, 14 January 1985. The Lebhaft introduces a theme and variations in contrived folk style, the textures delicate, thin, and hazy, even in its more agitated stance as a heavy-footed dance in the second half of the movement. Richter’s glacial tone makes the Hindemith keyboard part a series of silver icicles hurled with epic force. The long last movement, another theme and variations, features both melos and counterpoint in healthy doses, again heavy and occasionally academic, but mollified by the conscientiously ardent collaboration of our Russian compatriots.
The Piano Sonata No. 2 (1936) has some colors reminiscent of Poulenc or Les Six, though Richter’s rock-like patina does not make for “soft” sensibilities. The first movement wants to be in G Major, but it often eschews that tonality for something it likes better on F, though the melodic phrases seem to me quite asymmetrical. Richter (from Moscow 2 May 2985) negotiates sixteenths and eighths fluently, again giving an illusion of architecture, however skewed, that ends on G in a grudging homage to sonata-from. The second movement, polyphonic and jazzy, likes to separate varying registers in the keyboard, and an edgy waltz emerges that might have been penned by Scott Joplin if he were drunk and sarcastic. The Rondo is slow–like Mozart’s K. 511–and celebrates Hindemith’s individual sense of harmony and modulation, in which intervals like the octave or the tritone gain hierarchical value. The pace picks up, and the colors brighten in a modal series of ostinato figurations that sound neo-Classical. The last minute slows down once more, meditatively, with those sforzati chords that punctuate the movement in a jazz idiom that dies away softly.
The Bassoon Sonata (1938) and the Trumpet Sonata (1939) appear at a pivotal time in the life of Hindemith, who had to flee Nazi Germany to Switzerland and then America. Richter and his two associates perform on the same program from Moscow, 22 May 1978. Something of Mussorgsky’s “The Old Castle” from Pictures at an Exhibition haunts the opening movement of the Bassoon Sonata. The last movement of the Bassoon Sonata combines slow movement, march and trio into one long excursion into varying colors for an unusually expressive concept. The dialogue between the two instruments proves rich and fertile–recall that Hindemith was in the process of creating a series of some dozen sonatas in the course of fifteen years–that would enrich the repertory for the “underdog” instruments. Arnitsans’ tone lulls and caresses as this instrument can when played with suave finesse. The Trumpet Sonata ranks high among the solo sonatas Hindemith created: in three movements, it conforms to the trumpet’s familiar keys of B-flat, F, and B-flat, but it often “digresses” into atonal chromatics–along with fourths and fifths–that fuse its traditional format with modernist tendencies. Marked “With Strength,” “Moderately slow,” and “Funeral Music–very slow,” the three movements combine virtuosity and elastic melody in varied rhythms that show off Hindemith’s facile and idiomatic love for orchestral instruments. To have heard Sviatoslav Richter dedicate his enormous gifts to the service of a soloist like Vladimir Zikov in these “functional pieces” has been a rare privilege.
— Gary Lemco

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