Fedor Rudin’s album Heritage celebrates Russian repertoire and more specifically the music of composer Edison Denisov (1929-1996). Denisov is associated with modernist music in Soviet Russia of the 1960s. With mentors like Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich and Debussy an early inspiration, I was keen to hear how these musical influences panned out.
Rudin’s decision to premiere Denisov’s student work entitled Three Concert Pieces for Violin and Piano 1958 is inspired. The first piece, Improvisation, opens with high drama, an insistent phrase on violin meets with an equally robust response on piano, played by Boris Kusnezow. Both musicians perform this youthful, forceful work with all the fire Denisov must have felt in his heart. The work is antsy, unsettled and the insistent phrase on violin and piano musically evokes an impasse or lack of progression. Adagio following, is a beautiful dance, frozen in time, with gorgeous debussyesque qualities and tones which fan out into great romantic gestures.
By the time Denisov was composing in the 1960s – the musical soundscape had become quite different. Sonata for violin and piano, 1963 has highly energetic rhythms which give way to an inward-looking Largo with eerie lyrical violin and discordant piano. Denisov’s Sonatina for violin and piano, meanwhile marks Denisov’s return to his earlier style. I loved its bite-sized lyricism. The Sonatina incidentally receives its first airing on this recording –unpublished, Rudin had special access to it, as he is Denisov’s grandson.
Having detected some Debussy strands in Denisov’s Three Concert Pieces, I was delighted to hear Rudin and Kusnezow play a Debussy work. I wasn’t expecting an opera! Denisov’s orchestration of Debussy’s unfinished Rodrigue et Chimène was obviously so good that Rudin took it a step further and arranged it for violin and piano. I expected just to hear the vocals in Rudin’s violin part, but what transpired was a lot more exciting. Rudin’s violin took on the parts of other instruments. This orchestration and arrangement really worked for me.
Equally enlightening was Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No 1 in F minor. Of all the works on the album, this is where Rudin and Kusnezow, display their exceptional musicianship and wonderful entente. In the sonata’s first movement,the Andante assai, both musicians brought out the sinister, harsh tones, and the wonderful moments of lightness to perfection. Rudin’s lightest of bow touches were quite extraordinary. In the third movement, the Andante the music had filmic qualities – Twilight Zone or even Amélie came to mind. In the finale there was a return to war-like tones and a mixture of tempos – ending in what seemed to be a Russian irreverence, which wound down beautifully.
Shostakovich’s Sonata for violin and piano in G minor also features on the album. Moderato con moto is oddly lyrical for Shostakovich but it is punctuated with a vigorous Jewish theme which ends abruptly.
Listening to this CD, I was conscious of being presented with the story of Russian Modern classical music from a Denisov perspective and began to understand him better. Heritage is an outstanding album and a wonderful showcase for Denisov’s music and the Rudin – Kusnezow musical partnership.
Heritage released on Orchid Classics. https://www.orchidclassics.com/releases/orc100183-fedor-rudin/ and streaming platforms