Nikolai Rakov: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2; Sonatinas for Violin and Piano

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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.