The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin/viola) Nicholas Walker (piano) Julian Milford (piano)*
Composer: Kabalevsky, Volkonsky, Khandoshkin, Prokofiev, Stravinsky

To hear Lydia Mordkovitch at the peak of her interpretative powers is like being thrown back half a century when the likes of David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin held sway. She has never believed in half measures and here every note is played to its maximum expressive potential, whether it is a raging violin fortissimo or a gentle viola pizzicato.

Mordkovitch’s ability to create a compelling emotional narrative from even the most uncompromising of musical gestures is immediately evident from André Volkonsky’s Viola Sonata, composed in 1955 just after he was expelled from the Moscow Conservatoire for creative ‘decadence’ and ‘formalism’. What could easily have descended into anarchic Modernism in the wrong hands becomes a deeply compelling experience as Mordkovitch and her outstanding accompanist, Nicholas Walker, illuminate even the darkest of musical terrain. So, too, Kabalevsky’s violin-and-piano Improvisation, which is a far cry from the dancing outer movements of the popular Violin Concerto.

Ivan Khandoshkin (1747–1804) was one of the lone voices of Russian music at a time when most of the country’s leading composers and exponents were Western-European imports. His Solo Violin Sonata in G minor mixes Bach with the predominant Italian masters of the day to stunning effect. Mordkovitch rounds out this opulently engineered recital in style with captivating performances of Prokofiev’s five Cinderella pieces and (reissued from an earlier disc with Julian Milford) Stravinsky’s Chanson russe and Danse russe.