There have already been several recording of Vadim Borisovsky’s tremendously effective arrangement for viola and piano of music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Robin Ireland includes the complete first set of six pieces (there are several collections totalling 13 movements). Ireland takes the whirlwind ‘Young Juliet’ and ‘Mercutio’ at a less neck-breaking pace than Hellen Callus or Lawrence Power; he is at his lyrical best in the ‘Balcony Scene’, and unleashes great reserves of sound in the menacing ‘Dance of the Knights’. Ireland mostly adheres to Borisovsky’s original fingerings, which are an essential part of his style and show off the viola’s timbral spectrum in the most favourable light.
Borisovsky left some 250 arrangements of music of every kind, but Shostakovich’s Preludes op.34 are not among them. Although attributed to him in the CD’s cover and booklet, the idiomatic arrangements Ireland plays are by Borisovsky’s student, Yevgeny Strakhov. They don’t adhere to the original keys but are ideally custom-tailored for the viola. Ireland captures perfectly the music’s mercurial nature, both the sarcastic faux-Baroque dance rhythms and the heart-on-sleeve Romanticism of the slow pieces.
Shostakovich’s Sonata receives an understated reading, which would surely have met with the composer’s approval, but the devastating effect the piece can have is only intermittently apparent. The recording is truthfully balanced, giving the important piano parts – well taken by the excellent Tim Horton – their due.