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Ukrainian Violin Sonatas


Ukrainian Masters

Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin.Steven Beck, piano.

Naxos 8.579146

Total Time:  58:08

Recording:   ***/****Performance: ****/****


The Ukrainian born violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv, who teaches at the University of Connecticut, returns with an engaging release of music by Ukrainian composers.  Most likely the three composers who are represented here will be new to most listeners (though Sergei Bortkiewicz’s piano music surfaces from time to time).  The program is bookended by sonatas from the 1920s with a more contemporary piece at its center.

Viktor Kosenko (1896-1938) was a talented young violinist and began his studies in 1908.  He would eventually study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and subsequently would move to Kyiv where he would continue teaching and performing until his death of kidney cancer.  His Violin Sonata in a, Op. 18 (1927) is an unabashedly romantic work with beautiful lyrical writing in the violin.  The piano provides some equally gorgeous interaction throughout the two-movement work, more prominently so in the second movement.  The work is overall quite engaging with some interesting moments of harmonic shifts that add a slightly impassioned feel.  Bortkiewicz’s (1877-1952) Violin Sonata in g, Op. 26 (1922)is one of his few surviving chamber works.  It is full of the same excellent dramatic writing and engaging thematic ideas that one hears in the aforementioned concerto.  It does have a bit of melancholy in its opening bars that gives way to a more jaunty dramatic allegro.  The music has an almost folkish quality in its musical line as if we are hearing a stylized serious dance.  The central movement has an equally touching lyrical theme that has a sort of longing quality.  The dance-like familiar continues to provide an engaging conclusion to the work.  The writing here is also filled with plenty of virtuosic writing for both instruments.

The Violin Sonata No. 2 (1991) by Myroslav Skoryk (1938-2020) is part of that category of works that incorporate referential moments to other eras and composers.  The opening movement features a bit modernist harmonic ideas.  The violin line also moves through quite angular segments with flashes of lyricism.  There is a sense of playful drama with both instruments vying a bit for attention.  The piano tends to be a blend of tonal harmonic segments with clusters and dense, more emphatic gestures.  The central andante has a more insistent piano ostinato with a plaintive violin line, a feeling of dissolution and deconstructed motives comes to the fore here.  The final Burlesque features some interesting syncopations in its outer sections along with a sort of jazzy quality all heading into an exciting finale.  The work moves a bit from a sort of Bartok/Prokofiev quality into early 20th-century jazz inflections.  The interplay between violin and piano provide plenty of exciting moments as it seems to careen to its conclusion.  Overall, it is a great discovery that should bear up under repeated listening.

These are expectedly committed performances throughout.  Ivakhiv has an excellent accompanist in Beck who is put through a variety of musical paces.  The pieces here require a great deal of virtuosic display as well as careful interaction for shaping of phrases.  Both musicians are on the same page here interpretively and these gestures come across well here.   Ivakihiv has a rich sound in her lower register here and the virtuosic aspects of the pieces are handled beautifully as well.  There is a great sense of energy throughout that enhances the intensity of the performances.  The album is worth tracking down for exploring rarer repertoire that is given its due here.  The acoustic adds to the warmth of the recording as well with the instruments set well within the overall sound picture.


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