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Crossroads: American Violin Sonatas - Semenenko, Belogurov

Crossroads: American Violin Sonatas - Semenenko, Belogurov

BIS  BIS 2545

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Previn: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Schemmer: Sonata for Violin and Piano
Gay: Sonata for Violin and Piano

Aleksey Semenenko (violin)
Artem Belogurov (piano)


On this transatlantic disc, three American composers born during the first half of the last century rub shoulders with two young musicians from Eastern Europe. A member of the BBC New Generation Artists scheme, the violinist Aleksey Semenenko first met the pianist Artem Belogurov at the Stolyarsky Special Music School in Odessa at an early age. Even if their individual careers have taken to different parts of the world, the two still perform together whenever possible, and here they present three sonatas.

Of the composers, the best-known is Andre Previn who composed his Violin Sonata No. 2 in 2011 for Anne-Sophie Mutter. An improvisatory spirit permeates the work which is in three movements with the markings Joyous, Desolate and Brilliant Tony Schemmer and Paul Gay are both based in the Boston area and share a background in which jazz and classical genres merge. This is reflected in their sonatas, composed in the 1980s and here appearing on disc for the first time.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - January 9, 2022

In times of depressing developments, one either wants to cling on to known and cherished music or avail oneself of gained lock-down time to explore new avenues, like, for instance, these three sonatas with which Aleksey (Oleksii) Semenenko demonstrates that he has, in only a couple of years, developed from a talented student to a mature professional.

I first heard Aleksey on a (sort of) PR disk from The Association of Friends and Supporters of the Hochschule für und Tanz, Köln (Cologne), with a memorable account of Grieg’s first violin Sonata (Romantic Brilliant Imaginative - Semenenko), thereby confirming what many knew and had already been firmly determined with his debut release “French Treasures”. (Also from the ARS stable, but unfortunately not available in Super Audio). And athough this American programme is in a different league, it does confirm Semenenko’s international credentials.

Instead of his regular partner, the Russian born pianist Inna Firsova, with which he recorded twice for ARS Produktion and with whom he gave some time ago a very successful recital in London’s Wigmore Hall, it is his old Ukrainian friend from Odessa, Artem Belogurov, and proven soloist on many a world stage, who joins him in this new recording. Two equals at work, one might say.

Whilst happy to save a lot of ink and half a page of print by referring to the detailed liner notes about each of these compositions and its composers, I’d nonetheless like to reassure readers that all three sonatas are in the realm of ‘extended’ melodious music, by which I mean: No experimental stuff, but thorough craftsmanship, building on proven compositional styles. I suspect that the adventurous among us will be pleased that BIS rewards its audience with something new that’s hugely worth listening to without having to pretend that you like it because it is, and doing as if you have always adored being at the sharp end of musical innovation to keep up with the Joneses. None of all that. It is likable in its own right.

As a matter of fact, BIS has set the scene for some remarkable discoveries. Not knowing any of the three, it was for me like a trip through wonderland. Full of striking detail; offering new vistas at every turn. Their strengths do not lie in delivering ‘shock waves’, but, as I see it, in allowing competent players to shine through carefully laying out an inspiring musical fundament. An example: Andre Previn composed his second sonata for his (one-time) partner, the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Paul Gay: “you paint what you like to see, what you want to share”, whilst Tony Schermer particularly likes to encourage and support young talent.

Rather than ‘loners’ inventing music no one really likes -with the off-chance that, one day, they may become celebrities- I’d personally prefer those who work with and not against the grain of musical tradition. All three music makers present on this disc belong to this category, whether or not with a jazzy background or just because of that.

So far for the creators. What about the performers? They do what they ought to: Bringing to life Previn’s stimulating musical language, Gay’s expressive painting in all its colours - and there are many -, as well as Schermer’s well developed ‘cocktail’ (as he characterises his brain Childs), with gripping virtuosity and appealing musicality. Bravo! What more can I say? Maybe that the BBC grant for this recording has not been wasted. On the contrary, it has positively contributed to this exceptionally well thought-through release.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2022 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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