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The Solo Violin Music of Ivan Khandoshkin

by Anastasia Khitruk

I’ve been surrounded by great music all my life. My mother is a concert pianist and she played music while I was in the womb. When, to my piano-playing family’s surprise, I decided to take up the violin, I entered into another, equally beautiful realm. In practice rooms, and at lessons, concerts and master classes, the great works for violin became part of my very consciousness. When I die, the autopsy will probably show permanently etched scores of Tchaikovsky’s violin works inside my ears.

Imagine my surprise, when, in one of my periodic raids through the used music pile at Frank Music in New York, I came across a Russian composer of whom I’d never heard: Ivan Khandoshkin. I looked at a copy of his Sonata no.1 for violin solo, and thinking Khandoshkin must be a contemporary composer who hadn’t been discovered, and seeing the (cheap) price of the score, I bought the music without even opening it.

At home, I read through the Sonata, found it quite difficult, and assumed it was written in the 19th century. "Too much work" was my verdict. The music went into the cupboard, and there it stayed for the next year.

A year later, I had the opportunity to present a number of concerts for solo violin. Most of the program was clear: Bach, Ysaye, Shchedrin, maybe a little Paganini and Kreisler to round out the mix. But the program needed something else; I didn’t know what. Out came my stash of as-yet-unplayed scores. This time, as I read through the Khandoshkin, the unusual character of the music was obvious. This wasn’t German counterpoint, or Italian bel canto, or anything familiar at all. Rather, it was all these things, blended into a very distinct, and unfamiliar mix. More importantly, it would serve beautifully as a bridge between Bach and Ysaye.

As I learned the piece, I became curious as to its provenance. Who, exactly, was this Khandoshkin? Where did he learn to play like that? The first surprise was right there on the music: the date. This was virtuoso violin music written by a Russian violinist and fifty years before Russian music was supposed to have begun! As far as I knew, Russian music started with Glinka. Obviously, I was wrong.

The first few Russian musicians I asked were aware of Khandoshkin’s existence, but had never heard the music itself. In fact, Khandoshkin was more famous for the many forgeries ascribed to him, than for any music he created. Clearly, I would need an expert, so I called my friend, Alexandre Brussilovsky. A fantastic violinist, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of violin repertoire. Jackpot! I learned the incredible, improbable story of a man universally lauded in his lifetime for his remarkable violin playing, but who died in obscurity and penury, his music forgotten and lost. I learned that St. Petersburg was not, as I had thought, a backwater during Catherine the Great’s time, but a cultural center lavishly funded by Catherine’s treasury. Not only did Alexandre know the music, and have all the scores, he provided me with invaluable musical guidance.

I began a series of concerts featuring Khandoshkin, not knowing how the music would be received. To my great surprise and pleasure, it had a universal appeal. Classical music neophytes found it beautiful, and the experts enjoyed discovering something new. Fellow violinists got their usual sadistic pleasure watching a colleague somersault through various difficult passages. One of these performances was attended by a gentleman called Peter Tcherepnine. From a deeply cultured family, he is descended from not one, but two fantastic composers of that last name. Peter, although he lives in New York, is a true Russophile - not surprising, considering his background - and immediately suggested recording Khandoshkin. Through the Tcherepnine Society, I was able to record these works where they were born, Saint Petersburg.

I hope that this record will allow Ivan Khandoshkin to retake his rightful place in violin history, that of a groundbreaking violin virtuoso and composer. I feel very lucky that the company releasing this record, Naxos, has helped me in bringing this music, and this musician, back to the audience’s attention and favor.

About Anastasia Khitruk

Anastasia Khitruk comes from a musical and artistic family. After immigration to the United States, Ms. Khitruk continued the violin studies she had begun at Moscow's Central Music School. Her talent was immediately recognized when she made her orchestral debut at the age of eight. Since then, she has appeared in concert and recital worldwide, including numerous performances in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Aspen, London, Geneva, Adelaide, Sofia, Paris and Moscow - where Katerina Birukova of Vremya wrote: "She sparkles with brilliant violin playing". Ms. Khitruk has appeared on television and radio in England, Russia, Germany, the United States and Australia. Her concert series in Bulgaria, during the prestigious Sofia Music Weeks, was televised and greeted with enthusiasm. In his review of her performance of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 at the Adelaide Festival for Real Time, Chris Reid declared, "Anastasia Khitruk is masterful!" She has been a prizewinner at numerous competitions in the U.S. and internationally, including the Paganini International Violin Competition.

An enthusiastic champion of modern music, Ms. Khitruk is often chosen to premiere works of young composers. In addition to pursuing her concert career, she is devoted to developing young audiences in her role as president of the Manhattan Music Society, a New York-based foundation. Read her latest Anastasia’s Violin newsletter at Visit her website at


Ivan KHANDOSHKIN (1747-1804)
Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 3, No. 1 (published 1800-08) [19:58]
Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 3, No. 2 (published 1800-08) [13:10]
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 3, No. 3 (published 1800-08) [13:09]
Six Old Russian Songs (c.1783) (No. 1. Along the bridge, this bridge  [5:15] *; No. 2. Is this my fate, this fate? [3:15]; No. 3. Little dove why do you sit so sadly? [5:11]; No. 4. What happened and why? [3:00]; No. 5. Once I gathered golden sheaves [2:58]; No. 6. Once I was a young man [4:07])
Anastasia Khitruk (violin)
Dimitry Yakubovski (viola) *
Kirill Yevtushenko, (cello) (Old Russian Songs)
rec. Melodiya Studios, Catherine’s Church, St Petersburg, May 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.570028 [70.17]

Reviewd by Jonathan Woolf and Glyn Pursglove


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