Russian Viola Sonatas / Nelson, Inanga

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GAIGEROVA Suite for Viola and Piano. WINKLER 2 Pieces, op. 31. Viola Sonata in c. JUON Viola Sonata in D • Eliesha Nelson (va); Glen...

GAIGEROVA Suite for Viola and Piano. WINKLER 2 Pieces, op. 31. Viola Sonata in c. JUON Viola Sonata in D Eliesha Nelson (va); Glen Inanga (pn) SONO LUMINUS DSL-92136 (71:02)

Varvara Adrianovna Gaigerova studied with Heinrich Neuhaus, Georgy Catoire, and Nikolai Miaskovsky at the Moscow Conservatory. The same professors taught Dmitri Kabalevsky, Sviatoslav Richter, and Emil Gilels. Gaigerova eventually became one of the Bolshoi Theatre’s hard-working pianists. In her spare time, she composed works for piano and viola as well as a symphony on Kalmyk themes and songs setting texts by Pushkin. She lived in terribly troubled times. For reasons unknown to us, she stayed in Russia when everyone who could left for greener pastures in Europe and the Americas. We do not know what happened to her during World War II, only that she died in 1944, when she was a mere 40 years old.

Eliesha Nelson’s viola has a warm, cream-laden tone. When you hear her play Gaigerova’s sensuous, heartstoppingly beautiful music, you wonder why we have not heard these works before. The Suite for Viola and Piano has sonorities that remind one a little of Scriabin, although Gaigerova’s composition is not in the least derivative. It begins with a propulsive Allegro agitato that gradually transitions to a slower movement. It finishes with a fast-paced section and a plaintive finale. Nelson brings out the luminous textures of this music with her engaging artistry. Her pianist, Glen Inanga, who plays a Steinway concert grand, is a most skillful partner. His contributions add greatly to the value of this disc. So does the clear and immediate sound of Sono Luminus engineers Daniel Shores and Dan Merceruio.

Alexander Winkler’s Elegiac Meditation is a slow and deliberate piece that begins with harmonious double-stopping. The pace shows off the ability of this violist, whose legato is as smooth as an old-fashioned butterscotch sundae. The next track offers a complete change of mood. La Toupie (The Top) describes the spinning of that once common toy. The viola imitates the rhythmic revolutions of a spinning top or wheel and you can see it whirl in your mind’s eye. To some degree, it is reminiscent of earlier composers’ spinning wheels, but here it is much happier and it injects a needed bit of comic relief into the program. The C-Minor Sonata brings us back to earth with compelling and significant music that touches the inner recesses of the soul. In the concluding variations on a tune from Brittany, the composer takes a beautiful folk tune and displays it in various guises: fast, slow, light, heavy, etc. It’s fun to listen to and you will notice that this finely crafted work is played with accuracy and precision.

Paul Juon is sometimes called the Russian Brahms and is thought to be a link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. His D-Major Sonata brings us a glimpse of rare Northern European sunshine. Nelson and Inanga bring out its uplifting melody with a forward motion that keeps the tension tight. Svetlana Stepchenko and Zoya Abolitz recorded this piece on a Russian disc in 1998, but it is no longer easy to find. In any case, there is no need to look for a better rendition than the one by Nelson and Inanga.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin

Product Description:

  • Release Date: July 26, 2011

  • UPC: 053479213624

  • Catalog Number: DSL-92136

  • Label: Sono Luminus

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Alexander Winkler, Paul Juon, Varvara Gaigerova

  • Performer: Eliesha Nelson, Glen Inanga