Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lisa Oshima in Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev and I only have a nodding acquaintance. I know little or nothing of his string quartets (did he write any?), or his piano sonatas, or his piano concertos, or his operas, or his ballet music, or his symphonies. I do, however, know well and like very much his music for violin: the two violin concertos, the two sonatas, the various pieces arranged for violin. So I bought a CD with the (unknown, to me) violinist Lisa Oshima with the (unknown to me) pianist Stefan Stroissig. The CD contains the wonderful first sonata for violin and piano, the Five Melodies Op 35 bis, Five Pieces from Cinderella, and an arranged Suite from Romeo and Juliet. A good start: an imaginative combination of pieces for a seventy minute CD.

The seventy minutes go by highly pleasurably. Ms Oshima is a fine violinist, the duo works well and is well recorded and balanced so we can hear both piano and violin whenever they play together. If I only give the CD two stars rather than three, it's because Prokofiev's music occasionally calls for some real muscle, particularly in the first sonata, and Ms Oshima is too much a well brought up Japanese young lady to risk making a harsh sound, and the pianist, Mr Stroissig, never veers towards percussion. Tempi on the leisurely side do not help. So we get a melodious Prokofiev, which drops it one star from my appraisal. I have twenty recordings of the first sonata, including excellent ones from Janine Jansen, David Oistrakh, Alina Ibragimova, Lisa Batiashvili, Vadim Repin and Josef Spacek. It's a frequently recorded work and competition is fierce, but Ms Oshima can certainly join this exalted company, particularly for those who don't like their Prokofiev too "raw". A warm welcome to seventy minutes of Prokofiev with Lisa Oshima, and some wonderful violin playing; a CD I shall certainly listen to many times.

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