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Hyperion Records

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View of the Monument to Peter the Great in Senate Square, St Petersburg (1870) by Vasilij Ivanovic Surikov (1848-1916)
State Russian Museum, St Petersburg / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67865
Recording details: October 2010
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2012
Total duration: 30 minutes 3 seconds

'A finely played programme that can be recommended with confidence' (Gramophone)

'Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips embark on a musical narrative of epic proportions … a performance that shows great insight and poignancy. Framing the Sonata on this beautifully recorded disc are two extraordinarily resourceful transcriptions for viola and piano made by two of Shostakovich's contemporaries. The highest compliment that can be paid to the duo's strongly characterised performances of the Op 34 Seven Preludes is that the music sounds as if it were made for these instruments' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This fine Shostakovich CD … Power and Crawford-Phillips are eloquent interpreters, spare as well as generous in expressing the work's pervasive melancholy' (The Observer)

'Ever since Lawrence Power emerged several years ago as one of the world's finest exponents of the viola I have wanted him to record Shostakovich's masterly viola sonata, his last completed work. This new recording fulfils all of my expectations … such is the extraordinary nature of this sonata that it does not respond to any kind of superficial treatment, and Power's performance is, on balance, the most penetrating I have ever heard' (International Record Review)

'Power and Crawford-Phillips leave us in no doubt of the stature of this final masterpiece … one of Power's most compelling recordings yet for Hyperion' (The Sunday Times)

'A most impressive rendering of the score's unique sound world, faithfully caught by Hyperion's engineering' (The Strad)

Sonata for viola and piano, Op 147
composer
dedicated to and first performed by Fyodor Serafimovich Druzhinin

Moderato  [9'31]
Allegretto  [7'16]
Adagio  [13'16]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Viola Sonata was Shostakovich’s last work, and there is good reason to suppose that he knew it would be. He composed the greater part of it in June and July 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 (in succession to Borisovsky), who played it in private on 25 September, which would have been the composer’s sixty-ninth birthday, and in public on 1 October to a packed audience in the Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic. On that occasion 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-part form. Here, as in many of his late works, atmosphere and tension are generated by the friction between twelve-note themes (as at the piano’s first entry) and images of pure diatonicism (such as the bare perfect fifths of the viola’s opening statement, which metastasize into perfect-fourth two-note chords at the end of the movement).

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

Most thought-provoking of all is the Adagio finale, which takes as its starting point the bleak viola lines from the middle of the second movement. As the finale gets under way 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. At the heart of this movement is a passage of extreme austerity built on note-for-note quotations, mainly found in the piano left-hand part, from Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto and all fifteen of his symphonies in sequence. There could scarcely be a clearer indication that he knew—or at least suspected—that this would be his last work. On the last page the clouds clear, allowing yet another self-quotation to come through; this is the main theme of the early Suite for two pianos, Op 6, a work dedicated by its sixteen-year-old composer to the memory of his recently deceased father. The ‘radiance’ (the composer’s own description) of this transfigured C major, with its strong autobiographical associations, recalls the conclusion of Andrey Tarkovsky’s famous science-fiction film Solyaris (1972), where the main character is reunited with his dead father on the mysterious inter-planetary entity that has the power to realize the subconscious desires of those who contemplate it.

from notes by David Fanning © 2012

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