About this Recording
8.572247 - Viola Recital: Fedotov, Igor - KRYUKOV, V. / VASILENKO, S. / FRID, G. / KREIN, Y. / BOGDANOV-BEREZOVSKY, V. (Soviet Russian Viola Music)

Soviet Russian Viola Music


This recording presents examples of virtually forgotten music written for viola by exceptionally talented Russian/Soviet composers. The stature of these composers and their contribution to Russian musical life give this music its intrinsic value. The rediscovery and recording of this particular body of Soviet music preserves a part of Russian cultural heritage and significantly expands the viola repertoire. Some of the works are well known in Russia but unknown in the West and difficult of access owing to a scarcity of reprints and recordings. Only the sonatas by G. Frid and S. Vasilenko were previously recorded during the Soviet era, but were never presented to the western market or digitalized for further publications. The rest of the programme has never been recorded until now.

I would like to acknowledge the support of the Western Michigan University, the US Council for International Exchange of Scholars and Fulbright Program, and my colleagues and friends, pianists Gary Hammond and Leonid Vechkhayzer, who made this recording possible.

Igor Fedotov
Professor, Western Michigan University
2006–07 Fulbright Scholar Award recipient


Vladimir Nikolayevich Kryukov

The composer Vladimir Kryukov (1902–1960) was a pupil of N. Myaskovsky, with whom he studied at the Moscow Conservatory. He worked as a broadcasting editor for the All Soviet Union Radio and as a music director for the Theatre of the Revolution, now the V. Mayakovsky Moscow Academic Theatre. After the end of the Second World War he was Director of Moscow Philharmonic Hall (1949–50), and later the head of the composition department at the Moscow Gnesin Institute. Unfortunately not many of Kryukov’s compositions are performed or remembered now. Those that continue to be heard are his opera The Station Keeper, after a story of Alexander Pushkin (1940) and the Concerto-Poem for trumpet (1954) wonderfully performed and recorded by Timofei Dokshizer. During the 1920s Kryukov was influenced by Scriabin’s music, like many others, and his Viola Sonata, Op. 15, written during that time (1919–20, rev. 1933) shows this influence very clearly. This one-movement, relatively short work has charm, sensitivity and a mysterious magic. It was dedicated to the founder of the Russian viola school, Vadim Borisovsky.

Sergey Nikiforovich Vasilenko

Sergey Vasilenko (1872–1956) lived through the most intense period in Russian history and never lost his positive attitude. He was broadly educated and talented in many spheres: composition, conducting and teaching (at the Moscow Conservatory for over forty years). Vasilenko’s compositions are elegant, and balanced by beautiful melodies, harmonic richness and colourful orchestration. The Soviet government honoured him with its highest awards, the Order of Lenin (1953) and the State Prize of the USSR (1947). His Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 46, was written in 1923 and was dedicated to Vadim Borisovsky. Despite its name this piece does not fit the parameters of a traditional sonata: it is clearly divided into a few large segments that we may call movements, but they are played with no interruption.

The opening section (Allegro moderato) is written in sonata form, with two contrasting themes and their development, but does not resolve to a recapitulation, ending instead with a viola cadenza that forms a link with the second movement (Andante amorevole). The Andante explores two independent, beautiful melodies and also has a very energetic transitional part at the end of it that takes the listener into the third part (Fughetta). This is fairly short with no development, masterfully leading to…a recapitulation of the first movement, bringing all fragments of this large piece into perfect balance. Later, at the end, we hear a short fragment of the Fughetta before the entire piece is crowned with a virtuosic coda. Vasilenko’s Viola Sonata is a wonderful piece that deserves a place together with the sonatas of Brahms, Rebecca Clarke, Hindemith, Glinka, Shostakovich and Honegger.

Grigory Samuilovich Frid

Grigory Frid was born in Petrograd (St Petersburg) in 1915. After graduating from the Conservatory in 1939 he was called up for military service and served through the Second World War, being awarded military honours. In 1965 he organized the Moscow Music Club for young people at the House of Soviet Composers. This club is still one of the most interesting cultural and musical centres in the city. His early works are written in a broadly traditional manner with assured technique and polyphonic development. Shostakovich had a strong influence on him during those years. In the 1960s his compositions become more tragic and complex. His Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 62, No. 1, was written in 1971 and given its première by the violist Fedor Druzhinin to whom the work was dedicated. Despite its clear three-movement cycle, this sonata leaves the impression of a poem or a musical monologue where all parts fit tightly together. The fact that the entire piece is based on the same thematic material fosters this feeling. Each movement is fairly short but very intense, with deep emotions. Musical lines are developed laconically, every detail dedicated to building a psychological image. It begins (Tranquillo e molto cantabile) with a solo viola monologue with material that later will become the foundation for the second and third movements. The second movement (Allegro) is madly energetic in contrast to the first, symbolizing the power of evil and destruction. The toccata-like writing in the piano contrasts with the dramatic, grieving melody in the viola. A sudden appearance of the first movement theme brings this violent movement to its end. It proceeds attacca into the finale (Lento) which is an improvisatory viola solo monologue with uncertain rhythm, infrequently supported by choral chords in piano. The melody climbs to a very high register and gradually disappears in silence, leaving a feeling of ultimate peace.

Yulian Grigor’yevich Krein

Yulian Krein (1913–1996) was a composition prodigy, first publishing at the age of thirteen. His Five Preludes were introduced in 1928 by Leopold Stokowski. In 1926 Narkompros (the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment) sent him to continue his study in Europe, where he was among the few students accepted for study at the Ecole Normale in Paris with the great French composer Paul Dukas. After graduation in 1932 he stayed for two more years in France, appearing in concerts as a pianist. In 1934 he returned to Russia and accepted a teaching position at the Moscow Conservatory where he remained until 1937. Krein’s music is complex and colourful, clearly expressing the influence of Scriabin and the French impressionists. His Sonata for viola and piano (1973) is a great example of this. He dedicated this work to one of his students, the violist Galina Kalacheva.

Valerian Mikhaylovich Bogdanov-Berezovsky

Valerian Bogdanov-Berezovsky (1903–1971) was a composer and critic, author of many books about musical performance and ballet. During his years at the Petrograd (St Petersburg) Conservatory, which he entered in 1919, he was influenced by a circle of fellow young composers that included Shostakovich, with whom he became close friends. At that time he also established himself as one of the city’s leading music critics. Bogdanov-Berezovsky remained in Leningrad during the war and survived 900 days of the siege. During his last years he was a chief editor for the Soviet Composer Publishing House. He died suddenly in 1971 on the way to the Soviet Composers Union annual event in Moscow. His Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 44, is one of his best chamber works. It was written in 1956 and dedicated to Y. Kramarov, a professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory. The sonata has three movements in which the first (Allegro assai e poco inquieto) is in traditional sonata form with rhythmic challenges and expressive, dramatic episodes. The second is a Tema con variazione. It starts with a seven-bar theme that develops through seven variations, gradually expanding its size and reaching a climax in a solo viola variation which, like a storm, rapidly moves us to an exciting final variation Poco marciale. The third movement, Postludia, in C major, based on the theme of the first movement, is very short and peaceful.

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