Yuri Bashmet is the founder and jury chair of Russia´s only International Viola Competition (Moscow) as well as president of the International Lionel Tertis Viola Competition in the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of various awards and regalia from Russia as well as from other nations. In 1995, he received the Sonnings Musikfond Prize, one of the most prestigious in the world, which was conferred in Copenhagen. Previous recipients of this award include Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, Dmitry Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, Svyatoslav Rikhter and Gidon Kremer.
These live recordings from 1985 are fantastic treasures. The Moscow Studio Archives release may now be unavailable – perhaps this Regis version is now easier to obtain. Oleg Kagan plays the Violin Sonata (1968) and Yuri Bashmet plays the Viola Sonata (1975), which was Shostakovich's last work, both accompanied by the great Sviatoslav Richter on piano…
This beautifully programmed CD presents three settings for viola and orchestra and a more eloquent statement about the beauty of the viola as an instrument would be hard to imagine (except for perhaps including Vaughan Williams' 'Flos Campi'). The viola finds that middle voice between violin and cello, a rich tone with a built in quality of mournfulness. That quality has inspired the works on this recording and the result is some of the more wistful music ever written. Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra with the superb violist Kim Kashkashian.
Steven Isserlis and Richard Egarr here assemble all the viola da gamba sonatas written by three composers born in the propitious year of 1685: one each by Handel and Domenico Scarlatti, and three by JS Bach. Isserlis plays them on the gamba’s modern cousin, the cello, and the microphone loves his playing, picking up all the nuances and scampering asides from his soft-spoken instrument which can sometimes get lost in big concert halls. Egarr on harpsichord matches Isserlis’s eloquence and rambunctious energy all the way. The dreamy, airy slow movement of Bach’s Sonata in G minor brings telling use of vibrato as Isserlis circles around Egarr, his playing at once idiomatic and soulful. An extra cellist reinforces the bass line in the Handel and Scarlatti, in which the composers give the harpsichordist only a framework; Egarr’s imaginative realisations ensure that even when Scarlatti is at his most repetitive, he is never dull.
"Die Musiker des Ensembles Villa Musica spielen mit einer ansteckenden Begeisterung, mit der diese Werke geradezu wachsen und an musikalischer Bedeutsamkeit zu gewinnen scheinen." (FonoForum)
The sound quality is good and the performances are excellent. I recently had the opportunity to compare Kashkashian's performance with Hindemith's own 1930s recording and while I naturally give props to Hindemith for recording his own work I like Kashkashian's performance of the Op. 24 viola sonata more– not just for sound but for the speed and fire she puts into the wild fourth movement. Hindemith's contribution to viola repertoire is probably the single most important one of the 20th century and this is probably the best available recording of his works. It includes all the solo and with-piano works on just two discs. It's also nice that Kashkashian and Levin recorded the viola works that were unpublished during Hindemith's lifetime, giving us a fuller insight into his work for the instrument than we might otherwise hear.