Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas No. 1/ 2 [Vadim Gluzman, Angela Yoffe] [BIS: BIS2032] Hybrid SACD, SACD
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'Two of the three excerpts from Romeo and Juliet which end the recital strike unexpectedly deep emotionally, proving an excellent complement to the Sonatas.' --BBC Music Magazine, December 2013
'With stunning SACD sound, everything in its favour and with musical qualities which make this a recording to relish for years to come, I'm going to stick my neck out and say Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe are the best for these two Prokofiev masterpieces.' --MusicWeb International, Dominy Clements
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Gluzman's recording of the bleak Shostakovich Violin Sonata was a standout, and the Prokofiev First Sonata is also the bitter product of a composer's Soviet experience. Prokofiev began the score in 1938, took it with him when he was evacuated from Leningrad after the Nazi invasion in 1941, and only finished it in 1946. B then he wrote a mostly mellifluous flute sonata that the young Oistrakh persuaded him to adapt for the violin, so the Second Sonata actually precedes the First in completion. Its lyrical mood doesn't reflect the war of Soviet oppression at all; it's a much more approachable work.
The intense, at times almost brutal way that Gluzman performs the First Sonata's opening movement - not that the work is entirely grim - is in line with the gritty, unsparing performances delivered by Oistrakh and Richter. The pianist here, Angela Yoffe (Gluzman's wife), is far milder than Richter, however, and as musical as she is, I sometimes missed his unwavering pressure. Yoffe's best moments come in the Debussyan Andante, where the wistful piano part ripples and shimmers at the outset like a Debussy Prelude. Gluzman is impressive throughout, displaying total assurance in every aspect of violin playing. As an alternative to the searing experience of Oistrakh-Richter, this account has much to recommend it.
Itzhak Perlman made a big impression with an early RCA recording of the Second Violin Sonata, a reading that still holds up well. Gluzman is more bracing' he discards all associations with the flute. HIs approach is lyrical but not sweet, and there's always robustness in his tone, and in Yoffe's accompaniment. I appreciated the absence of prettiness. Prokofiev was a melodic genius, yet it's good to hear sturdier, more serious qualities being brought out. The only flaw I find in Gluzman's reading is the want of fantasy, a quality that devotees of Prokofiev cherish (twice over, I would think, during the grim Soviet era).
The program ends with three transcriptions from the ballet Romeo and Juliet, a masterpiece where fantasy and romance are more prominent than tragedy. Actually, the exuberant finale of the Second Sonata comes straight from the same musical world. In the excerpts, the piano does heavy duty as an entire orchestra while the violin is assigned the major melodies, generally taken from the string section. Fro anyone who likes transcriptions, this music is usually heard in a suite for solo piano, but the violin-piano version is more effective thanks to the wider variety of tone. Here we get the Dance of the Knights and Masks form Act I and Dance of the Girls with lilies form Act II. Gluzman plays so beautifully that I don't want to break the spell by saying that the element of fantasy and charm could be more.
If you've forgotten the glory of the Russian violin school, here's a chance to experience it in full.