Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat, Op.18
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op.19 [Arranged for Viola and Piano by Vadim Borisovsky]
Vocalise [Arranged for Violin, Viola and Piano by Yuri Zhislin]
Yuri Zhislin (violin & viola) & George-Emmanuel Lazaridis (piano)
Recorded January 28 & 29 2005 in St Marys Church, Walthamstow, London
Reviewed by: Michael Quinn
Reviewed: May 2006
CD No: SOMM NEW HORIZONS
Duration: 71 minutes
Plaudits, first off, for the sound on this enchanting disc from Somm. Appropriately enough for these opulent and luxuriously accented flowerings of Romanticism from Rachmaninov and Richard Strauss, the recorded ambience has a warmth and cosseted intimacy that is wholly conducive to the quietly intense mien of the music. It also beautifully frames three very fine performances from two excellent young musicians, pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis and Yuri Zhislin, who moves eloquently here between violin and viola.
The recording gets under way with a delightfully fresh take on Richard Strauss’s youthful Violin Sonata. Written in 1887 in a conventional, three-movement fast-slow-fast structure, and before he had committed anything of lasting value to paper, the piece has a formal charm of its own and has been described by Michael Kennedy as the composer’s “last piece of orthodox chamber music”. Orthodox, it may be, and carrying more than a hint of the salon, too, but it is also an agreeably enticing piece and rewarding, too, in its own non-fussy domestic idiom.
This is the only ‘straight’ performance here (the other two pieces are heard in arrangements), and Lazaridis tackles the ardent piano line with a romantic gusto that carries one along with beguiling ease. Along but not away, for although he teases and tests at every point the music’s bubbling quasi-orchestral aspirations, he sensibly stops short of indulging them. It is the more subdued Zhislin who provides the centre of gravity – albeit one that seems a touch too grounded in places throughout the first two movements. His delightfully nimble, nuanced and light-as-air approach to the ecstatic long willowy lines of the finale, however, makes delightful amends.
Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata appears in an arrangement for viola and piano by Vadim Borisovsky (the original viola player of the Beethoven Quartet) that moves the cello line an octave higher and in doing so casts an interesting light on the balance and dynamics of the two instruments. Happily, both Zhislin and Lazaridis play with a telling reciprocity, each alert to the other and from the off equally sensitive to the now yearning, now wallowing, now exuberant shifts of tone that make this such an engaging piece.
Again, Zhislin opts for the understated approach and it pays dividends in the Lento-Allegro moderato first movement where it is complimented and contrasted by the lighter, freer shadings in Lazaridis’s accompaniment. But it offers a problematic solution to the decidedly faster movement that follows where Rachmaninov prescribes Allegro scherzando, a tempo Zhislin never quite achieves, and similarly with the prancing buoyancy of the finale where such deference risks the taint of undue timidity. Lazaridis, though, has the piece under his clearly virtuoso fingers and he offers unstinting and unselfish support throughout, pulling Zhislin along where the piano needs to forge ahead but staying with him when his colleague’s softer approach is the more apt option.
Zhislin’s penchant for lingering, please note, is a minor cavil, for on offer here is the first outing on disc for a chamber partnership that shows every sign of being one of the most creative and accomplished duos of their generation. The encore, Zhislin’s own arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise for violin and viola (himself neatly double-tracked) and piano underlines that promise with exquisite dexterity. At mid-price, this latest, vital showcase in Somm’s “New Horizons” series for two bright new young talents, is really something of a steal.