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Vazha AZARASHVILI (b. 1936)
Days Go By: Complete Works for Cello and Piano
Cello Sonata No. 1 (1961-99) [13:19]
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1976) [21:47]
Five Preludes for Cello and Piano (2006) [13:52]
Prelude for cello and piano (1976) [4:29]
Nostalgie (version for cello and piano) (1991) [2:48]
Nocturne (version for cello and piano) (1987) [4:29]
Days go by (arr. A. Suleiman for cello and piano) (1969) [4:34]
Sentimental Tango (version for cello and piano) (1972) [1:30]
Alexander Suleiman (cello)
Irma Issakadze (piano)
rec. 2017, Stadthalle, Neutraubling, Germany
NAXOS 8.579030 [66:59]

A citizen of Georgia, Vazha Azarashvili blossomed under the Soviet education system that held sway in satellite states during the 1960s. His composition studies were pursued in Tbilisi, the city of his birth where his composition teacher at the Conservatory was Andrei Balanchivadze (1906-1992). Apart from the cello/piano works on this disc, his catalogue includes operas, orchestral, chamber, vocal and choral pieces and many film scores, as well as concertos for violin (1967, revised 1971), viola (1973), flute (1968) and cello (1969), the latter recorded by Sony.

The First Cello Sonata - a product of the composer's student years in Tbilisi - is in one span with distinct episodes. It ranges, in virtuoso form, from introspective soulfulness (with which it ends) to disarmingly gangling writing. The Sonata looks, fairly frequently, over its shoulder to the example of Shostakovich. The Second Sonata - from 15 years after the First - is in four movements, each with its own track. It is dedicated to Eldar Issikadze, the father of the pianist here. This work mixes urgency with playfulness and measured pensive uncertainty with driven urgency. The last movement had me thinking of Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto and of the fine recording made years ago for RCA-BMG by Mikhail Khomitser. Six Preludes follow, of which five are in a group dating from 2006. The solitary other was written in 1976. Of the group of five none seem exceptional apart from the striking Largo (No. 4) which is on quite another and elevated plane. The lonely 1976 Prelude is also a very touching piece. Both of these outstanding pieces would satisfy the emotional needs of young cellists, competition panels and audiences. The remaining short works are quietly passionate and lyrical with misty 1970s accents fully in play. The title Days Go By says a lot. This is affecting music; snappy too in the case of the Tango: how Kreisler would have revelled in these if only ….

The music here, written over 45 years, is largely approachable and when it explores the periphery goes no further than the Shostakovich symphonies. The shorter pieces have, it seems, quite a following in Georgia and have the 'legs' to make new friends anywhere.

The accessible and informative essay, which is helpfully structured work by work, is by Dr Angela Cholakian.

Alexander Suleiman and Irma Issakadze clearly believe in this strong, companionable music, rich in sentimental tendencies. The recording, made in Germany, allows the two musicians to 'speak' to full effect.

Rob Barnett


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