S022579 Reviews


S022579 Quasi una Sonata

Fanfare, January/February 1998 by Mike Silverton

Alfred Schnittke
Sonata no. 1 for Violin and Piano in three movements (1963),
Sonata no. 2 for Violin and Piano "Quasi una sonata" in a single movement (1968),
Suite in Old Style for violin and piano (or harpsichord) in five movements (1972),
A Paganini for Violin solo (1982).

Valery Gradow (violin), Inna Heifetz (piano)

As so many recordings already exist, best to begin with professions of contentment. These performances are as plummily histrionic as one could ask. (That's no sly snipe. The music demands it.) And the sound, moreover, is first-class, thanks to recordist Jonathan Wyner. So let's dispose of a solo gripe: Suite in Old Style of 1972 (Pastorale, Ballet, Minuet, Fugue, Pantomime) is a featherweight pastiche unworthy of this company. It may have worked nicely in the film for which Schnittke wrote it, but as a stand-alone, not. (Nineteen years on, the composer adapted his serio-mischievous Quasi una sonata of 1968, for violin and piano -- the original version of which we hear on the present disc - to a work for violin and chamber orchestra with piano.
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The four-movement Violin Sonata No. 1 of 1963 sounds at the hands of its present executants a powerful exemplar of Russian Romanticism, despite foreshadowings of Schnittke's slippery-slope mannerisms. Annotator David Zacks describes the program's recentmost work, A Paganini, for solo violin (1982), as a "great example of Schnittke's polystylistic[s]." I can only think to add, "and gallows-humorist tendencies." Does any living composer's oeuvre serenade the Crack of Doom in quite so madcap a manner?

The notes provide Gradov and Heifitz's not inconsiderable bios. Enough to say that as a duo they play as an idiomatically pungent entity. A very attractive release.


AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, January/February 1998 by D Moore

Schnittke Violin Sonata no. 1 & 2; Suite in Old Style; To Paganini
Valery Gradow; Inna Heifetz, p Sonora 22579 - 71 minutes

Alfred Schnittke (b. 1934) is one of the most disturbing composers of our disturbed century. This disc opens with Quasi una Sonata, a 23-minute movement written in 1968 that still bothers me to listen to, its contrasts are so angry, its material so direct yet so tragic in effect. This is Schnittke's second violin sonata. Both this and the shorter First Sonata of 1963 are attempts to evoke the Russia of the Soviets. Sonata 1 pays lip service in places to the serial writing in vogue at the time, but Schnittke was never doctrinaire about any ism and the row breaks down into other elements after the first movement. The Suite in Old Style may be accompanied by piano or harpsichord and is a pastiche of baroque styles with the tongue less firmly stuck out than usual. It originated as a film score, The Adventures of a Dentist. The disc ends with an unaccompanied fantasy dedicated to Paganini and hinting at many of the techniques used in that master's solo caprices. The violin music is not new to discs. The two sonatas and the suite are available on Bis527 played by Wallin and Pontinen, while A Paganini has been recorded by Oleg Kagan and Gidon Kremer. Both sonatas were later orchestrated and are available in that form as well. One may ask why we need a new recording. And I shall tell you. Canada has never paid overmuch attention to other countries' marketing practices. Here, however, they have engaged a violinist from Moscow who studied with Leonid Kogan, has won numerous prizes, and now teaches at the 1Mannheirn Conservatory. A displaced person like Schnittke himself, he and pianist Heifetz play this material with a Russian flair unmatched by any of the competition but Kremer, and the recording is excellent. If the program appeals, or if you have not yet tasted the odd brew that is Schnittke, this disc is as good a way to collect the violin pieces as any I have heard. I was impressed and moved.


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