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Hyperion Records

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Landscape near Troize-Sergiev (1920) by Aristarkh Vasilievic Lentulov (1882-1943)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67637
Recording details: January 2008
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 19 minutes 3 seconds

'Ibragimova plays like a dream, and Volkov and the BBC Scottish SO accompany superbly throughout. Simon Eadon's sound is first-rate. Anyone interested in rare 20th century repertoire need not hesitate' (Gramophone)

'Soloist Alina Ibragimova delivers a highly persuasive interpretation, her meltingly lovely tone especially effective in encapsulating the mystery and romance of the central slow movement. Equally compelling is the incisive and imaginative orchestral accompaniment from Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, captured here in outstandingly clear-recorded sound' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Both concertos are given superb, telling performances here by Alina Ibragimova and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov, on a disc that is valuable both historically and musically' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Both concertos are beautifully played by Alina Ibragimova, whose slightly wiry, deceptively fragile sound seems ideal for this music's ambiguities, with Volkov and his orchestra providing the perfect foil' (The Guardian)

'This knock-out Hyperion release … the First Violin Concerto is a major achievement … Ibragimova delivers her solo part with communicative passion. You can imagine Ilan Volkov listening to her in the sessions, shaping the whipcrack response from the BBC Scottish players as the music evolves: there's a marvellous sense of spontaneity in both pieces … a terrific disc' (International Record Review)

'The First Violin Concerto reveals a composer deeply influenced by the expressionism of early Schoenberg, Scriabin and Berg, but also one who has found his own voice. The violinist Alina Ibragimova gives an impassioned performance with the ripe-sounding BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Volkov. She and they are equally committed in the Second Concerto, composed in 1936, but unperformed until this very recording—an unequivocally Romantic work' (The Times)

'Ibragimova has the bravura technique and coloristic range … she posses as elegance of tone … Volkov brings out tall the polyphonic strands with ease and leads a performance of striking color, power, and discipline. More eloquent advocates for Roslavets abilities would be hard to imagine' (Fanfare, USA)

Violin Concerto No 2
1936; first performed in January 2008 by Alina Ibragimova and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov (recording)

Allegro moderato  [10'02]
Adagio  [4'55]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
While the Violin Concerto No 1 was among the first works to help re-establish Roslavets’s reputation, for a long time the very existence of a second concerto was a matter of speculation; the score is a comparatively recent rediscovery. The Violin Concerto No 2 was completed in 1936, and was therefore written shortly after his remarkable Chamber Symphony of 1934–5 (recorded on Hyperion CDA67484). Thus it belongs to the period following Roslavets’s return to Moscow from Uzbekistan, when he seems to have been trying to re-establish his reputation as a composer of substantial works, but after the notorious Pravda denunciations of Shostakovich and musical modernism in January 1936 he probably felt it stood little chance of performance.

While Roslavets’s first violin concerto must rank among the most important Russian works of its era, the second concerto seems in some respects a slighter piece. It uses the same three-movement form, but is altogether shorter (the second and third movements are quite brief), and calls for a somewhat smaller orchestra. Compared to Concerto No 1 it is written—like the last two movements of the Chamber Symphony—in a harmonically simplified, more strongly tonal style, with a clear tonal centre of D major. Its forms are rather laconic: there is less development of material, but underlying its major-key pretensions there is a persistent darker undertow characteristic of the earlier Roslavets.

It seems almost certain, moreover, that in the second concerto (as in the Scherzo of the Chamber Symphony) Roslavets evokes Uzbek, or at least Central Asian, folk melodies, whether quoted or imitated. Unquestionably the opening theme of the first movement has that character, and (after the interposition of a dotted-rhythm figure apt for development) is given almost technicolour treatment before the initial tutti dies away. The violin’s striking, recitative-like first entry, accompanied by timpani roll and harp glissandi, proceeds to a florid decoration of a lyrical second theme: this is repeated and elaborated and leads into a faster development in which the violin presently takes over the opening theme but seems more intent on giving out fragments in harmonics and decorative elements. Indeed one fascination of this movement is the comparative simplicity of its melodic materials set against the convolution and bravura of the solo violin writing. The bold recitative returns, but this time leads into a sprightly Vivo coda.

The Adagio slow movement is in a comparatively simple ternary form. It begins in F with a substantial orchestral introduction in which an initial folk-like theme soon becomes only one strand in orchestral polyphony. The violin then takes it up, again in much-decorated form. A contrasting theme appears in A minor, at the same tempo, to form the central section, and a short unaccompanied solo leads into an elaborated version of the opening section, with a brief coda in which the violin eventually soars up to end on a high F. Throughout, the mood is elegiac and oppressed, but richly harmonized.

The finale, Allegro giocoso, starts off with a cheerful main theme whose chief motif is a triadic idea of two-note figures leaping up and down in thirds. As this figure gravitates to the bass the tonality changes to F sharp minor and the violin, accompanied by harp and clarinets, gives out a long-breathed espressivo theme closely related to the folksong-like melody with which the concerto began. A mysterious transition works back to the ebullient idea that opened the finale after which a second episode, in E flat, evolves with another folk-like dolce theme—into which the giocoso theme intrudes, and then hustles all before it into a breakneck coda. Brilliantly effective though they are, both this finale and the slow movement feel rather vestigial, as if Roslavets was unwilling to explore the full expressive potential of his materials. Or perhaps he intended a comment on a time that demanded optimism and had no time for reflection. Whatever the reason, this concerto remains a superb vehicle for the solo violin, and has certainly not deserved the obscurity that has so far been its fate.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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