SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Sonatas / Kremer


Violin Sonata op. 134
(Version for Violin, Percussion and
String Orchestra)

Viola Sonata op. 147
(Version for Viola and String Orchestra)
Gidon Kremer
Yuri Bashmet
Kremerata Baltica
Int. Release 15 Sep. 2006
0289 477 6196 9
Kremer and Bashmet perform little-known Shostakovich Sonatas in a masterful tribute


Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
Sonata For Violin And Piano, Op.134

Orchestrated by Michail Zinman; percussion arranged by Andrei Pushkarev



Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica

Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op.147

Orchestrated by Vladimir Mendelssohn




Yuri Bashmet, Kremerata Baltica

Gesamtspielzeit: 1:08:18

You'd have to be a die-hard purist not to appreciate the virtues of these two fascinating transcriptions . . . In this new context the Scherzo and the extraordinary climax of the Finale pack an extra degree of ferocity, whilst at the other end of the dynamic spectrum, the closing passages to the first and third movements sound even more eerie than in the original. Recorded live at concerts given in Russia, Gidon Kremer and his marvellous Kremerata Baltica respond to the music with searing commitment, the audience remaining totally gripped throughout the performance . . . All of the performances are recommended.

All 68 minutes of this disc are devoted to the virtuosic depiction of what might be called ¿gray on gray¿, a kind of dark November sound world that becomes, finally, as commanding as the composer's much-admired Mahler or Beethoven. Kremer ist not just one of the great living violin virtuosos but also a thinking man¿s virtuoso virtually incapable of conventionality . . . This is Shostakovich¿s end-of-life music, and its austere, utterly pure and, as performed, almost all of a piece. Not only does there seem nothing inappropriate about the adaptions for violin and string orchestra, they seem almost ideal -- inventive and powerful in an way that the composer might have thought of himself if he hadn¿t run out of time.

. . . the quality of the playing is such that almost all of my objections have been silenced . . . The live recordings in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 2005 are superb: I urge all genuine admirers of this composer to hear these performances.

Gidon Kremer's playing . . . has lost none of its acute incisiveness or, in the final bars, its expressive intensity . . . Yuri Bashmet plays with uncommon commitment and is given unstinting support by Kremerata Baltica. Sound is well balanced . . . and there are informative notes from David Fanning. Arrangements recommendable as alternatives to . . . the originals.

In dem Geiger Gidon Kremer hat Schostakowitsch seinen ebenbürtigen Interpreten gefunden . . . alles tönt bis zum i-Tüpfelchen nach dem großen verzweifelten Russen . . . Das Klangbild ist lupenrein, die Bässe fordern das ganze Können der Wiedergabekette.

Die Kremerata Baltica verleiht der erstmalig auf Tonträger erscheinenden Orchestrierung der Klavierparts mit wütenden Attacken besondere Schärfe . . . Gidon Kremer und Yuri Bashmet interpretieren zeichnerisch klar und strukturbewusst.

. . . sowohl Gidon Kremer als auch Yuri Bashmet liefern durch jahrzehntelange Erfahrung mit den Werken geprägte beeindruckende Interpretationen ab.

Une belle découverte . . . transcendée par l'archet de Gidon Kremer.

    Shostakovich: The Violin and Viola Sonatas
    arranged for soloist and chamber orchestra

Symphonist and quartet composer par excellence, Shostakovich was, perhaps surprisingly, not particularly drawn to the sonata. There are just two for the Piano (his own instrument) and one each for Cello (1934), Violin (1968, plus an unfinished one from 1945) and Viola (1975). Performers seeking to add music of such compelling eloquence to their repertoire have made arrangements of the Cello Sonata for viola, and of the Viola Sonata for cello. Others have orchestrated certain of his string quartets, turning them in effect into chamber symphonies. And the versions of the two sonatas recorded here draw out their potential as latent concertos. The arrangement of the 1968 Violin Sonata for violin and strings was made by violinist Michail Zinman for his own use in 2005. The idea for the addition of percussion came from Gidon Kremer and Andrei Pushkarev, the part being written and performed by the latter. Pushkarev also plays the short episodes for celesta and vibraphone in the Viola Sonata, whose arrangement by Rumanian-born violist-composer Vladimir Mendelssohn was completed, according to the score, on 12 July 1991.

The Violin Sonata might never have materialized without the personality of David Oistrakh. It was for this towering virtuoso that Shostakovich composed his Second Violin Concerto in 1967, thinking of it as a 60th-birthday present. He had miscalculated, however: Oistrakh was not 60 until the following year. So in August 1968, hot on the heels of the premiere of the Twelfth String Quartet, he set to work on a Violin Sonata, hoping, so Oistrakh assumed, to make good the "mistake". In the event Shostakovich was slightly late with the composition and missed the birthday itself; but the violinist was hardly likely to turn his nose up at such a present.

Oistrakh's musical personality may have had some influence on the seriousness and dramatic scale of the work. But this also reflects a general trend in Shostakovich's later music, as his symphonies were becoming less "symphonic" and his chamber music more so. In fact the Sonata could equally have served as a tribute to Prokofiev. The stalking accompanimental unisons heard at the outset of the first movement, and the violin's tentative response, echo Prokofiev's wartime First Violin Sonata, as does the ghostly high violin writing later in the movement. The way this last passage recurs near the end of the third movement, and the implacable drive of the central allegretto, also reflect obvious debts to Prokofiev's work. But Shostakovich arrives at these gestures by his own particular route, and he embeds them in the unique structure of what is one of his most uncompromising and forbidding masterpieces.

The Violin Sonata stands in a line of Shostakovich's works in the late 1960s that feature 12-note themes, not so much as a constructional basis to be rigidly adhered to, but in order to suggest a kind of suspended animation that is set against contrasting types of musical motion for purposes of dramatic contrast. The opening theme consists of one such 12-note row, immediately answered by its strict inversion. A few minutes further on, the contrasting theme, a kind of clowns' march on stilts, with a spiky accompaniment from the violin, is equally discomfiting. A sizable portion of this first movement is given over to the ghostly dying away of this second theme, dominated by shivering trills and tremolandos.

The driving allegretto sustains its brutal momentum with ghastly relish. Mercilessly unrelenting for the violinist, it is to be followed by something still more strenuous, as the finale presents us with the most structurally adventurous of all Shostakovich's passacaglias, culminating in a near-hysterical episode for the orchestra and a short cadenza for the violin. The passacaglia is then rounded off, and Shostakovich builds a lyrical bridge to a spectral recall of the first movement, ending the work on a note of unreconciled and unreconcilable angst.

The Viola Sonata was Shostakovich's last work. He composed the greater part of it in June 1975 and died, of lung cancer, on 9 August. Following his own wishes, the Sonata was first performed by its dedicatee Fyodor Druzhinin, violist of the Beethoven Quartet. He played it in private on 25 September, which would have been the composer's 69th birthday, and in public on 1 October to a packed audience in the Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic. Druzhinin acknowledged the standing ovation by holding the score aloft.

In consultations with Druzhinin during the process of composition, Shostakovich described the first movement of the Sonata as a "novella", perhaps in recognition of its free-flowing three-movement form. Here, as in so many of his late works, tension is created between 12-note themes and images of pure diatonicism such as the bare perfect fifths of the viola's opening statement.

The scherzo second movement recycles the opening music from Shostakovich's abandoned wartime opera on Gogol's The Gamblers, the tale of cardsharps duped by their intended victims. In character this movement begins halfway between a polka and a quick march; the later stages are newly composed.

Most striking of all is the adagio finale, which follows without a break, unfolding from the bleak statement on the viola heard in the middle of the scherzo. Here Shostakovich paraphrases the famous opening movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, drawing attention to the kinship between its repeated-note motif and his own favourite funereal intonations. From a prevailing tone of austere intensity, the music passes via a number of concealed self-quotations - notably the opening of the Fourteenth Symphony and the main theme of the early Suite for Two Pianos, op.6 - to a kind of "radiance" (the composer's own description), ending in a transfigured Cmajor.
David Fanning