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Two Violins
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Duo Sonata No.3 in D (1738) [5:17]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Duet in G Op.5 No.1 [8:58]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Sonatine for two violins (1920) [8:15]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Duo Sonata for two solo violins (1915)
Dmitri Kogan, Marianna Vassilieva (violins)
rec. Studio C, Moscow International Performance Arts Centre, Moscow, February 2007  
DELOS DE3390 [48:33]
Experience Classicsonline

Russian duos hold an important place in the discography of two-violin recitals. One thinks most prominently in this respect of Leonid Kogan and his wife Elisabeta Gilels who left behind a select sheaf of such recordings in addition to their many solo discs in which respect Kogan’s eminence overshadowed that of his wife. The Oistrakhs, père et fils, offer exemplary performances both studio and live. And Eduard Grach and his violinist confrère and fellow Yampolsky student Valentin Zhuk have also made some important inroads on the two-violin repertoire. So the youthful pairing of Dmitri Kogan and Marianna Vassilieva has an august lineage to uphold. And it just so happens that Dmitri is the grandson of Leonid Kogan – an added pressure one would have thought.
The repertoire is very much set in his grandfather’s mould. He and his wife essayed the Telemann duos – and recorded some – as well as the Ysaÿe, of which they made a fabulous recording. It’s as well to start there because this is the longest and most involved of the works and the disc’s cornerstone. In a generous acoustic we are treated to a reading of great mellifluousness and care. Tonal warmth is a given as are instrumental finesse and tonal gradations. The ensemble between the two has been carefully thought through and in every respect this is a generous and imaginative reading from two young musicians in command of its sense of movement, harmonic interest and occasional folkloric leanings. The Kogan-Gilels recording preferred a more tensile and sculpted approach – their performance was etched with a greater sense of drama and in the slow movement especially offered a master class in thematic rise and fall, of subtle stresses and voicings. Nevertheless the younger pairing offers varied vibrato usage, and warmly expressive playing and in the finale are generous and sympathetic, though tending to abjure the faster and more arresting instincts of the Kogan-Gilels team – the Delos recording offers a more genially and emollliently romanticised reading which is fine on its own terms.
The Honegger Sonatine is a zesty and compact work, which this duo deals with suavely and elegantly, though they don’t abjure its more resinous moments. They’re less tonally militant than the old Grach-Zhuk pairing. I like the way they catch the strangeness and otherness at the start of the central movement – its spareness and allusiveness - but don’t neglect the burgeoning lyricism. None of this is as bittersweet as Grach-Zhuk but it’s a different kind of approach and its plangency works well. The finale is sparky and faster than most rivals.
Telemann’s Duo Sonata is the piece with which the recital gets underway; it reminds one of the exploration of the Canonic Sonatas made by Kogan’s grandfather many years ago and also how boldly buoyant and imaginatively distributed these sonatas are. The Boccherini is a happy choice, felicitously played and none too serious – graceful and lyric. 
There’s a similar recital on CPO 7771592 where Thomas Christian and Daniela Preimesberger explore the Ysaÿe and Honegger works and add the Milhaud Duo but it’s not a disc to which I’ve had access for comparison purposes. If you have an interest in the repertoire then these performances have been warmly recorded and offer similar qualities and interpretative strengths.
Jonathan Woolf


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