This is immensely attractive music that has been rescued from obscurity by Toccata Classics and Natalya Shkoda. Hers is the First Western Recording.
Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko (1896-1938), born in St Petersburg, was Ukrainian, a highly respected composer, teacher and pianist (during his lifetime) whose musical gifts there are stories of his prodigious ability, when a child, to memorise, sight-read, and transpose allowed him to choose music as his career rather than the expected one in the army. Short-lived as he was, Kosenko wrote quite a lot of music, and not only for piano; there are chamber and orchestral works and concertos for violin and for piano.
Kosenkos Etudes, composed between 1927 to 1929, are immediately likeable while not being at all predictable melodic, expertly crafted, flowing and embracing classical structure and romantic ideals, with Ukrainian folk-music embraced if not quoted from. If etude suggests that these works are technically challenging, then this is no doubt the case although Natalya Shkoda makes light work of such challenges and what impresses is the clarity of Kosenkos writing and that his is a strong and distinctive musical language; there are echoes of Chopin and Tchaikovsky, to be sure, as well, at times, of a Bachian template, but there is also something pleasingly individual, too, based not on fad but on tradition and innate skill.
Kosenkos, then, is music of craft and heart, and a wide-range of emotions. The opening Gavotte is jaunty and memorably tuneful; the fifth movement Sarabande is soulful and dramatic; the following Bourrée has the crispness of Rameau or Couperin (updated); and there is the drawing-room good-taste of the Minuet, the ultimate contrast with the large-scale nobility of the penultimate movement, a Passacaglia, lasting here nearly 20 minutes, music of substance, a brooding synthesis of Brahms and Rachmaninov. To complete the cycle nine of the movements are dedicated to members of Kosenkos family is a Gigue that in its controlled rapidity offers a noble summation to music that is harmonically engaging, varied and resourceful.
Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances is a real discovery, and is played with the utmost sympathy and technical elan by Natalya Shkoda; she also writes the booklet note, giving a general introduction to Kosenko as well as detailed commentary on the pieces. One wants to hear more of Kosenkos music piano or otherwise. That this release is inscribed Piano Music, Volume 1 seems wholly reasonable; Kosenko is a composer well overdue international consideration.