Exploring Sokolov’s Chamber Music

cover TOCC0560

SOKOLOV: Violin Sonata No. 2.1,4 Reminiscence for Piano 4 Hands.2,4 13 Postludes for Viola & Piano.3,4 Élegie for Solo Viola 3 / Karen Bentley Pollick, 1vln/2pno/3vla; 4Ivan Sokolov, pno / Toccata TOCC 0560

Composer-pianist Ivan Sokolov was born in 1960 to a cultural family; his father was an ancient art historian. Yet, in one sense, this release is as much a showcase for American musician Karen Bentley Pollick, who plays the violin, viola, piano and (not represented on this CD) the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle.

Pollick

Karen Bentley Pollick

Sokolov’s music is by no means avant-garde. It has a strong tonal bias but also a good sense of structure and an interesting use of harmony related to, but not as widely varied as, the music of Nikolai Medtner. At about the 3:40 mark in the first movement of the Violin Sonata No. 2, for instance, Sokolov goes through a fairly lengthy sequence of linked harmonic changes, shifting voices within the chords to make these changes. One thing I found interesting in Pollick’s violin playing is that she sounds as if she is playing the viola: it has a full, rich tone, almost in the German tradition rather than the Russian, Italian or French schools. The second movement of this sonata has a desolate, melancholy quality built around minor keys, again with several key shifts within the movement, particularly at the climax (approx. four minutes in) where things become less opaque and more overt in feeling. Interestingly, the third movement is a relatively relaxed “Moderato” rather than a scherzo, but the last movement is a fairly frenetic “Allegro molto” with plenty of spiky harmonies. The composer accompanies her in most of the music on this disc.

Reminiscence for Piano 4 Hands features both Pollick and Sokolov at the same piano. It, too, is in the same mold as the Violin Sonata, romantic but with many fascinating harmonic shifts and a few dramatic outbursts. The Postludes for viola and piano follow much the same pattern as the Violin Sonata but on a smaller scale. This, I found, was Sokolov’s one real weakness, the tendency to write music that sounds too much alike. The second postlude, in 3/4 time, features spiky harmonies like the last movement of the sonata. Apparently, Sokolov is also a synethesiac who “sees” music in terms of colors. The various postludes are ascribed such colors as red (No. 1), green (No. 2), orange (No. 3), light blue (No. 4), yellow (No. 5) etc. Postludes Nos. 4, 8 & 9 were the most musically interesting to me.

A nice album, then, with some very interesting moments among some fairly mundane ones.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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