Kosenko: 11 Etudes in the Form of Old Dances
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Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko: Piano Music Volume One

Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances

Catalogue Number: TOCC0036
EAN: 5060113440365
Release Date: 1 January 2006
Duration: 69:03

Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19

Natalya Shkoda, piano

Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko (1896–1938) was one of the most important Ukrainian composers and pianists of the first half of the twentieth century. His Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19, of 1927–29 offer an organic synthesis of the late-Romantic piano tradition, neo-Classical impulses in their use of Baroque dance-forms, and elements of Ukrainian folk-music. This recording of a neglected monument in the piano literature is the first step in the discovery of a composer who was once a cultural icon in his native Ukraine but is now as good as unknown outside its borders.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1-11 Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19 (1927)

Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko, composer
Natalya Shkoda, piano
1 Gavotte in D flat Major (Allegro mosso) 4:09 play
2 Allemande in B flat major (Moderato) 7:07 play
3 Menuet in G major (Allegretto) 5:18 play
4 Courante in E minor (Vivace) 3:56 play
5 Sarabande in A minor (Adagio) 5:54 play
6 Bourrée in A major (Allegro) 5:08 play
7 Gavotte in B minor (Allegro moderato) 3:15 play
8 Rigaudon in C major (Vivace) 3:49 play
9 Menuet in E flat major (Allegretto) 5:09 play
10 Passacaglia in C minor (Andante con grandezza) 18:50 play
11 Gigue in D minor (Presto) 6:28 play


Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko

Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko, composer

Natalya Shkoda

Natalya Shkoda, piano


Gorgeous Romantic Piano Music using Baroque Dance Forms

Occasionally one hears unfamiliar music and immediately falls in love with it. That has been my experience with these eleven piano pieces by a Ukrainian composer I'd never even heard of before, Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko (1896-1938). If it weren't for the adventuresome spirit of Toccata Classics' guiding light, Martin Anderson, I certainly never would have come across this music which has been in my player almost constantly since I got this CD a week or so ago. This has so often been the case for me with Toccata Classics releases that I've recently joined their 'Toccata Discovery Club'. One can explore and hear mp3 excerpts of all the tracks on the label's CDs at www.toccataclassics.com. The label specializes in worthy music not otherwise available on disc.

Kosenko was himself a virtuoso pianist who began composing early in life. His 'Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19', written in the late 1920s, is a collection of pieces using the dance forms familiar to us from the baroque -- gavotte, allemande, minuet, courante, sarabande, bourrée etc. They flow so nicely that one could think that they are predictable, but indeed none of them is; there are surprises, lovely ones, in every one of the études. Although they sound technically only moderately advanced, on closer listening one hears that they are not; they truly are studies that would pay the ambitious pianist's attention. They are unfailingly melodious, often with what we are told are Ukrainian folk-like melodies, sometimes making use of modal scales. The harmonic language is, for the most part, familiar from such composers as Tchaikovsky or early Scriabin, but occasionally one runs into jazz-inflected or impressionist harmonies, or Bach/Busoni baroqueries. Somehow this all fits together and sounds inevitable and 'right'.

There is not space here to describe all eleven études. Some highlights: No. 1, a gavotte, is perky, sassy, and has a particularly gorgeous set of melodies. No. 6, a bourrée in A major, is virtually a two-part invention with parallel or contrary motion in both hands, and with a folk-tinged middle section in the corresponding minor key. No. 10, a passacaglia, is the longest étude, lasting over eighteen minutes. It consists of an eight-bar ground bass followed by thirty-eight variations and a coda. This étude sounds both Bachian and Tchaikovskian. It features a dizzying array of technical challenges including trills, octaves, dynamic contrasts, challenging pedaling and variations in touch and rhythm. An impressive work. The set concludes with hyperlegato presto gigue in sonata form, a virtual perpetuum mobile.

Natalya Shkoda, the marvelous pianist on this disc, is herself a Ukrainian currently living in Texas. She makes a convincing advocate for this wonderful music. We are told this is 'Volume 1' of Kosenko's piano music and I for one am eager to hear more.

Scott Morrison Amazon 12th February 2009

In the United States, the name of Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko is not well known at all. Based on this compact disc, we have missed out on some incredible music from the Ukraine. Pianist Natalya Shkoda not only performs this music in a startling and masterly fashion but gives us an in-depth biography of the life of this short-lived composer with full annotations on the music itself.

Ms. Shkoda (Mrs. Sergey Smirnov) currently resides in Lubbock, Texas where her husband is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas Tech University. Interestingly, her final project for her doctorate degree consists of a research paper on Kosenko's Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19, and this particular CD recording. From my point of view, based on this recording, she should be handed her degree with bells worn by the administrators for her stand-alone accomplishments!

The music: Kosenko worked on these Études between 1927 and 1929. As Ms. Shkoda advises: "They are Romantic pieces with a neo-Classical touch expressed through reference to the style and structure of Baroque dances … [and] their innovative aspect … lies in their unification of two different genres: simultaneously, they are both concert études and dances. Each one simultaneously explore different aspects of technique bringing them closer to the Lisztian type of étude than to that of Chopin."

Here's the Baroque dance sequence in the order performed: [1] Gavotte in D-flat; [2] Allemande in b-flat; [3] Menuet in G; [4] Courante in e; [5] Sarabande in a; [6] Bourée in A; [7] Gavotte in b; [8] Rigaudon in C; [9] Menuet in E-flat; [10] Passacaglia in g; and [11] Gigue in d.

While each of the eleven Études offer a new listening experience in the perception of a Ukrainian composer's take on Baroque dances, one will immediately recognize a great master at work. But my ears didn't really get caught until No. 8 began, and took me through the rest of the dances to the conclusion of the recording, never losing my devoted concentration and making me wonder why Kosenko's work is not better known in the West. With No. 8 (a Rigaudon), there is an harmonic appeal, of which the ears take immediate notice. Lovely melody flows from No. 9 (a Menuet). No. 10 is the most gigantic Étude of the entire collection, timing in at 18'49". This is a Passacaglia in the key of G Minor. To hold one's attention for over 18 minutes for one "mere" Étude requires some outstanding pianism - and we find it here without a flaw. (The other Études range in time from three-plus minutes to slightly more than seven minutes.) Étude No. 10, on its own, could find new favor among performing musicians, and as an alternative to passacaglias by Bach (in keyboard transcription), JFK Fischer, or Godowsky amongst others. Indeed, hold on to your hats for No. 10! No. 11 (a Gigue) brings the whole collection to a decidedly magnificent conclusion, reminiscent of JS Bach, though the virtuosity of the work is Lisztian, and perhaps somewhat Brahmsian in its darkness.

There is absolutely nothing pedantic in Natalya Shkoda's performance of this Ukrainian masterwork. She is polished and involved emotionally in every respect and possesses a full command of her keyboard.

It also helps to have a venue such as Katzin Concert Hall, School of Music, Arizona State University where these performances were recorded in one day, December 21, 2005. While the piano is not identified, it sounds to me to be an outstanding Steinway concert instrument that is beautifully in tune and impeccably voiced, from a roaring bass to the subtlest playing in the treble—absolutely no harshness in tone from the pianist or the piano. This venue—and its piano—seems to me to be a well-kept secret.

It has been a long time since I've heard a pianist from Russia/Ukraine that displayed such command of the piano. And fortunately for record collectors this disc is marked as Volume 1, meaning more is to come. (It will be difficult to wait.)

It might also be noted that Kosenko was born in St. Petersburg, Russia where the family still spoke the Ukrainian language. Later the family moved to Warsaw. Kosenko also spent a decade in the Ukrainian city of Zhitomir where he taught music, composed, and became heavily involved in myriad musical activities. There must be something special in the air about Zhitomir, (which I once visited, and Kharkov, from whence Ms. Shkoda hails)) because a number of great pianists came from those areas, including the legendary pianist Sviatoslav Richter.

Don't be afraid at all to go after this recorded-in-America performance by a Ukrainian pianist, with music composed by a Ukraininan composer on a disc with outstanding documentation manufactured in England!

Five stars and totally recommended

Lance G. Hill Klassical Music Guide

A country that can boast Moritz Rosenthal, Emil Giles and Vladimir Horowitz among other its sons might be said to have something of a pianistic tradition. Performer and composer Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko (1896-1938), a contemporary of all three, died young and remained in his Ukrainian homeland when others travelled further afield. Perhaps because of these factors, we are only now being given the opportunity to make ourselves familiar with his piano works.

This is the first recording of Eleven Etudes in the form of Old Dances to be made outside Ukraine – although the Ukrainian-born pianist Natalya Shkoda, making her recording debut, retains a geographic link. If this disk, volume one of Kosenko’s piano music with at least two more disks planned, is anything to go by it is a great shame that this works have received such limited attention. These lyrical, accessible pieces were composed between 1927-1929. They make no secret of Kosenko’s Ukrainian folk music influences but also stay roughly true to the dance forms such as bourrées, sarabandes, gavottes and menuets that he employs.

Length-wise most of the works hover around the five-minute mark, but the Passacaglia in G minor, a set of 38 variations, doubles that. According to Shkoda’s detailed booklet notes, the Passacaglia offers ‘an encyclopaedia of technical difficulties’, which are ably manipulated by the young pianist. It’s also the only work on the disc that really gives Shkoda a chance to demonstrate the true measure of her impressive pianistic range. Her tone is bright, and she navigates the many exposed runs with clarity and precision.

Kosenko described his op.19 as a ‘family album’, with the majority of the Etudes carrying a dedication to a relative (he reserves the Passacaglia for his wife, Anna). Whether each work bears any resemblance to the character of its dedicatee can only be imagined, but if so, then Kosenko’s nephew Fedir must have been a particular favourite – ‘his’ lively Rigaudon in C major, no.8, provides one of the highlights here.

Maggie Williams International Piano

This is immensely attractive music that has been rescued from obscurity by Toccata Classics and Natalya Shkoda. Hers is the “First Western Recording”.

Viktor Stepanovych Kosenko (1896-1938), born in St Petersburg, was Ukrainian, a highly respected composer, teacher and pianist (during his lifetime) whose musical gifts – there are stories of his prodigious ability, when a child, to memorise, sight-read, and transpose – allowed him to choose music as his career rather than the expected one in the army. Short-lived as he was, Kosenko wrote quite a lot of music, and not only for piano; there are chamber and orchestral works and concertos for violin and for piano.

Kosenko’s Etudes, composed between 1927 to 1929, are immediately likeable while not being at all predictable – melodic, expertly crafted, flowing and embracing classical structure and romantic ideals, with Ukrainian folk-music embraced if not quoted from. If ‘etude’ suggests that these works are technically challenging, then this is no doubt the case – although Natalya Shkoda makes light work of such challenges – and what impresses is the clarity of Kosenko’s writing and that his is a strong and distinctive musical language; there are echoes of Chopin and Tchaikovsky, to be sure, as well, at times, of a Bachian template, but there is also something pleasingly individual, too, based not on fad but on tradition and innate skill.

Kosenko’s, then, is music of craft and heart, and a wide-range of emotions. The opening ‘Gavotte’ is jaunty and memorably tuneful; the fifth movement ‘Sarabande’ is soulful and dramatic; the following ‘Bourrée’ has the crispness of Rameau or Couperin (updated); and there is the drawing-room good-taste of the ‘Minuet’, the ultimate contrast with the large-scale nobility of the penultimate movement, a ‘Passacaglia’, lasting here nearly 20 minutes, music of substance, a brooding synthesis of Brahms and Rachmaninov. To complete the cycle – nine of the movements are dedicated to members of Kosenko’s family – is a ‘Gigue’ that in its controlled rapidity offers a noble summation to music that is harmonically engaging, varied and resourceful.

Eleven Etudes in the Form of Old Dances is a real discovery, and is played with the utmost sympathy and technical elan by Natalya Shkoda; she also writes the booklet note, giving a general introduction to Kosenko as well as detailed commentary on the pieces. One wants to hear more of Kosenko’s music – piano or otherwise. That this release is inscribed “Piano Music, Volume 1” seems wholly reasonable; Kosenko is a composer well overdue international consideration.

Colin Anderson Classical Source


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