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The Outcry
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for violin and piano No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80 (1938-46) [29:07]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 134 (1968) [31:25]
Igor Malinovsky (violin); Itamar Golan (piano)
rec. 2014, Mendelssohn-Saal, Gewandhaus Leizig, Germany

The Outcry as a title for this CD refers to the way both Prokofiev and Shostakovich “opposed the imponderables with which the dictatorial regime of Joseph Stalin confronted them.” Something of an understatement for the state of angst under which artists lived in this era, the subject has been broached in this way by recordings in the past including the very fine Sounds of Defiance from Yevgeni Kutik and Timothy Bozarth which also includes Shostakovich’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 134. We’re apparently allowed conveniently to forget that the Shostakovich work falls well outside the sinister and repressive Stalin era, but these two very Russian sonatas sit well together on this Genuin Classics CD.

The dangerous atmosphere of The Outcry is certainly expressed in the grim nature of Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata, described by the composer as “like wind blowing across a cemetery.” Musicians Igor Malinovsky and Itamar Golan very much get to the heart of this score, with a chilling atmosphere in the enigmatic first movement and eloquent passion in the second. I love Golan’s soft touch in the opening of the Andante third movement, a massive contrast to the violence of the second. Malinowsky matches with subtle colour from his violin in a performance filled with nuance and sincere feeling.

Of Shostakovich’s sparse later Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 134 the composer stated “there may be only a few notes, but there is a lot of music.” There are plenty of notes in the energetic central Allegretto, but it is true that Shostakovich wasn’t handing out any kind of easy listening to his audience or to the dedicatee David Oistrakh. Once again this is a very fine performance of a tricky work, with truckloads of expressive depth and suspenseful atmosphere to go along with that very real spark of creative intensity that only comes from a duo in absolute synergy with itself. The final Largo has some sublime moments and Malinovsky/Golan make the most of them with no sentimental ham in sight.

Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata has been recorded often enough, and while James Ehnes on the Chandos label remains a solid recommendation for his ‘complete violin music’ set (see review) the sonatas from BIS (BIS-SACD-2032) with Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe are more of a desert-island choice. Malinovsky and Golan take a little more time over the Andante but the pacing of both performances seems ideal for their context.

I’ve come across nice recordings of Shostakovich’s Op. 134 in the past from the likes of Ruth Palmer, and have recently come to appreciate even more the playing of Lydia Mordkovitch who plays the work with smouldering intensity in a richly weighty recording. Classic versions such as Oleg Kagan with Sviatoslav Richter’s rather noisy live performance are worth seeking out, though I was less convinced by Midori’s recent version on Onyx (see review). There is more space for those “few notes” in this recording from Malinovsky and Golan on Genuin Classics, and these players actually manage to draw out and deliver considerable emotional impact from the piece.

If this coupling attracts then you need have no hesitation in acquiring this release. With superb performances and a very fine recording I have no caveats to report.

Dominy Clements



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