The cover of this new Delta Classics recording of the violin sonatas and sonatinas by Russian composer Nikolai Rakov (1908-1990) declares "World Premiere Recording", but it doesn't indicate which piece or pieces are premieres. After a little digging around, it looks like the whole lot of them are. Rakov is best known for his Violin Concerto No. 1 which was championed by David Oistrakh, and has been recorded several times, but not these violin and piano pieces.
Rakov began his musical studies as a violinist, achieving considerable repute as a soloist before turning to writing music of his own. At the age of 20, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied composition with Reinhold Glière and Sergey Prokofiev. Rakov's music is of the conservative Russian romantic mould. These pieces are generally tonal and melodic, with colorful late romantic harmonies - but there is some variety here. From the Three Pieces for violin and piano (1943) through the Sonata for violin and piano No. 2 (1974), the music was written over a period spanning thirty odd years and his style certainly undergoes some changes. Much of it is similar to chamber works from Shostakovich and Prokofiev. The tonal vocabulary is similar, but Rakov's music is lighter, not bearing the virtuosic intensity of those composers' works. It's more like salon music, fun, even a little mischievous at times. The sample that I've provided, the first movement of the Sonata for violin and piano No. 1, is one of the most tonally conservative and melodic of the bunch.
David Frühwirth plays with polish and panache. The young violinist has performed at Lincoln Centre, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall and the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev. Also, he has received Editors Choice nods from both Gramophone and Fono Forum. Mr. Frühwirth is joined by multi-award winning pianist Milana Chernyavska, and together they make an excellent case for Rakov's estimable sonatas and sonatinas.
David Frühwirth started his training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Paul Roczek, Jürgen Geise, and Rugiero Ricci. He continued his studies in Lübeck with the renowned pedagogue Zakhar Bron, where he graduated at only 20 years old. Pinchas Zukerman and Patinka Kopec invited him to New York for three years to work on additional postgraduate diplomas. It was there that he had the chance to work with eminent teachers of chamber music such as Jaime Laredo and Isidore.
3 Pieces for violin and piano (1943)
Sonata for violin and piano No. 2 (1947)
Sonatina for violin and piano No. 3 “Little Triptych” (1968)
Sonatina No. 2 in D major for violin and piano (1965)
Sonata for violin and piano No. 1 (1951)
Rakov was a staunchly conservative composer who exercised a solid grasp of orchestration and melody; many of his works ventured only a little beyond the style of Alexander Glazunov and Reinhold Glière. Unabashed tonality, late Romantic harmonies, and flowing tunes were the hallmarks of his work, in which the Russian national idiom always took prominence.
The internationally regarded journal “The Strad” has stated: “David Frühwirth is one of the most refined young violinists appearing in recital today!” The young violinist is an enthusiastic explorer of unknown repertoire and has restored many forgotten works to the concert stage.
Her artistic abilities have won her many prizes at both national and international levels, including a Gold Medal at the Vladimir and Regina Horowitz Competition in 1994. Since 1994 Milana has also held the title “Outstanding Artist in the Ukraine”.
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Nikolai Rakov: Sonata for violin and piano No. 1 - I. Allegro energico (1951)