Frolov and Friends
Igor Frolov (b1937, not to be confused with the Moscow-based cyclist of the same name, b1990!) enjoyed an international concert career (he was a pupil of Oistrakh, among others) and, having won prizes in several competitions, served on the juries of several others, including the Tchaikovsky. Although not trained in composition, he took to writing small pieces and arranging others to play in his recitals, often as encores. As Piet Koornhof’s booklet note points out, the irony of Frolov’s compositions – particularly those written during his trips to Cuba, or inspired by them – is their dalliances with jazz and other popular musical forms that were, at the time, banned in his homeland.
A fine example of his use of popular forms is the Piece in Blues Style, quite the finest and most individual work on this disc. Its quiet and relaxed character catches the feel of the idiom beautifully. Dansa latina is almost as appealing, a vivid and lively dance in marked contrast to the rather bland and schmaltzy sequence of romances, waltzes and caprices. The Six Melodies are a suite of arrangements of tunes by General Juan Almeida Bosque, a one-time Cuban freedom fighter and confidant of Castro. Idiomatic as the arrangements are, their musical qualities are far from revolutionary.
The arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ (Frolov also wrote a Concert Fantasy on Themes from Porgy and Bess) is taken a touch too slowly here for my taste. (Indeed, Koornhof and van Schalkwyk are expansive in many of their tempo choices, even in the Piece in Blues Style, although it works fine there.) The transcriptions of songs by Jorge Anckermann and Rodrigo Prats are pleasing enough, based on Cuban songs; Serge Gais’s Swedish Farewell Waltz was based on a whimsical improvisation by Frolov himself.