From Russia, with Love
Here’s awesome playing from the tragically short-lived Kiev-born violinist Yulian Sitkovetsky—violin virtuoso Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s father—taken from the Sitkovetsky Family Archives. Born in 1925, Sitkovetsky rose to greatness with his generational Soviet colleagues Richter, Rostropovich, and Kogan, snagging second prizes in the 1952 Wieniawski and 1955 Queen Elisabeth Competitions, and marrying pianist Bella Davidovich in 1950 before succumbing to lung cancer in 1958.
Each of these generously filled volumes is special.
On Vol. 1, Sitkovetsky gives a classically restrained, yet deeply moving performance of Bach’s D minor Partita, with a stupendous chaconne, and an elegant Mozart K. 378.
On Vol. 2, he tosses off Vieuxtemps’ retro Classical Suite with a courtier’s charm; and handles one of Ysaÿe’s fiendish solo sonatas and a handful of encore pieces with ease, including a waltz by Saint-Saëns reminiscent of the Drdla Souvenir over which Jack Benny and Joseph Szigeti dueled in the 1944 film Hollywood Canteen.
Vol. 3 is all concertos: Sitkovetsky finds both intimacy and fireworks in Glazunov’s familiar showpiece (partnered by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kyril Kondrashin); and does his best for forgettable vehicles by both Sergei Lyapunov and Albert Lehman, the latter appealing in a sort of cheerful, populist way.
On Vol. 4, Sitkovetsky plows his way through heavy-duty virtuoso stuff led by three Paganini works (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7; Le Streghe; and Sonata a preghiera “Moses Fantasia”), capturing the ecstasy without the mush. He concludes with a dazzling, even by Sitkovetsky’s standards, rendition of Bazzini’s La Ronde de Lutins, Scherzo Fantastique for Violin and Piano, Op. 25.
This fall, concertos by Shostakovich and Khachaturian will make up Vol. 5 and the liner notes (the same for each volume) indicate that the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concertos are to follow. The remastered sound on these performances, most from 1950–1955, finds an excellent balance between reducing noise and not losing the essence of Sitkovetsky’s luminous tone. Start with Vol. 1 and, odds are, you’ll be hooked.
This article, "From Russia, with Love," is part of the Strings Archive, which you can access with a paid site subscription.
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