Kosenko Piano Works, Vol 1

A brave attempt to rescue the music of a respected composer

Author: 
David Fanning

Kosenko Piano Works, Vol 1

  • (11) Etudes in the Form of Old Dances

These pieces are frankly little more than pastiche exercises, and as such they may not be the ideal introduction to the work of a pianist-composer who was regarded with respect and affection in his adopted Ukraine (though born in St Petersburg and trained in Warsaw and Moscow, Kosenko's family background was Ukrainian, and he spent the second half of his life, 1919-38, in Zhitomir and then Kiev, dying of cancer shortly before his 38th birthday).

Composed 1927-29, the 11 Etudes are in the olden style but without an atom of the charm, wit or grandiloquence that countless other pianist-composers were able to invest in that manner. The Passacaglia sounds like an attempt - an embarrassing one, it has to be said - to bask in the reflected glory of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne. Most of the other pieces have the air of tasks that might have been carried out by gifted composition students in the middle of their studies. Top marks for correct harmony, but zero-comma-zero (to borrow Prokofiev's assessment of such works) for having anything to say.

Not that there is no value in having in the public domain such a document of academic music-manufacture, and it also throws into relief the work of scores of other composers more deserving of rescue from dusty library shelves. Bravo to Natalya Shkoda for putting her accomplished playing at the service of this music and for supplying an informative and unapologetic essay to accompany it. Recording quality and presentation leave nothing to be desired.

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