Maxim Rysanov Plays With Fire

Maxim Rysanov powerfully rearranges Schubert, Bruch, Tchaikovsky for the viola but his performance lacks subtlety

Composer: Schubert, Bruch, Tchaikovsky
Repertoire:  ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata (Schubert, arr Dobrinka Tabakova); Rococo Variations (Tchaikovsky, arr Maxim Rysanov), Romance (Bruch) Maxim Rysanov (vla)
Artists: Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Muhai Tang
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: BIS BIS-SACD-1843

The Music: The viola was for centuries the ‘Cinderella’ of string instruments, and its original solo repertory remains small. So today’s crop of high-powered viola soloists like to arrange existing music, as Maxim Rysanov has here.

The Performance: Schubert’s A Minor Sonata (D824) was written for the ‘Arpeggione’, a short-lived Viennese cross between the cello and the guitar. It suits the viola’s range quite nicely – and besides Dobrinka Tabakova’s string-orchestra arrangement of the piano part, Rysanov has himself adapted Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations for cello. His playing has his instrument sounding impressively like a cello, although some of the viola’s capacity for subtle light and shade has been ironed out in this relentless quest for powerful tone. Max Bruch’s Romance (a rare viola original) brings out a likeable, gentler streak in Rysanov’s artistry.

The Verdict: There’s no arguing with the fullness and firepower here, and Rysanov’s fan-base will not want to – fair enough. Memo to neutrals: maybe sample it first.

Want More? Rysanov has memorably recorded two releases of Brahms’s viola music on Onyx; the second (ONYX 4054) features two mellow masterworks, the G major String Quintet, and the Clarinet Quintet in its alternative solo viola version.