Russia’s great tradition of violin playing inspired countless composers to create soulful melodies and dazzling showpieces. Hideko Udagawa’s latest album, set for release by Russian label Northern Flowers on 9 April 2021, began with a quest to find fine repertoire rarities and works written to display the violin’s abilities. Nostalgic Russia also includes world premiere recordings of Viktor Mikhailovsky’s transcriptions for violin and piano of Rachmaninov’s Elégie Op.3 No.1 and Tchaikovsky’s Romance Op.5, and contains only the second ever recording of Four Pieces Op.64 by Czech composer Eduard Francevič Nápravník, principal conductor at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and an important early interpreter of Tchaikovsky’s music.
The London-based violinist’s compelling programme mirrors her long association with Russian music and love for the country’s culture. It spans everything from Dmitri Kabalevsky’s haunting Improvisation Op.21 No.1 and Fritz Kreisler’s transcription of the ‘Hymn to the Sun’ from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel to Stravinsky’s Chanson russe and characterful transcriptions of five pieces from Shostakovich’s Preludes for piano Op.34. Other highlights include Valse sentimentale from Tchaikovsky’s Six Pieces Op.51 and a transcription of Scriabin’s sublime Nocturne Op.5 No.1. The album was recorded last November at the Church of St Silas the Martyr in north London in company with the Russian pianist Petr Limonov, an alumnus of Moscow’s Central Music School and London’s Royal College of Music.
“This recording has been a joy to make,” comments Hideko Udagawa. “It takes an enormous amount of time to discover and learn suitable pieces for a recital album of this kind. You have to judge whether a little-known work is good enough to record or is little-known for a reason, and you must also decide what you’d like to have transcribed. Building this programme took many months and was fascinating in itself. It’s a long process but worth it. Even getting the scores is not always easy. Many of the pieces I tried were substandard, including works by well-known composers. So it takes time and effort to discover the best repertoire and then to learn it. I was lucky in the past to find a Khachaturian sonata that had never been recorded, and fortunate once again to find so many fascinating pieces for this new album.”
Udagawa drew from experience gained while creating the programme of her first album for the St Petersburg-based Northern Flowers label, a disc of romantic works by Glinka (including the world premiere of the Sonata for Violin and Piano), Glazunov, Glière, Anton Rubinstein and others. She began by trawling the catalogues of libraries and archives in the United States and Europe, then requested help from publishers and spent hours online to amass a pile of potential pieces. The violinist was determined that whatever she chose to record, whether originally written for her instrument or transcribed for it, should be of the highest quality. Rachmaninov’s Elégie and Tchaikovsky’s Romance, both conceived for solo piano, comfortably passed Udagawa’s quality threshold and enabled her to continue an already fruitful collaboration with Viktor Mikhailovsky.
Lessons learned from Nathan Milstein proved the strongest influence on Hideko Udagawa’s choice of compositions and performance of them. She began studying with the great Russian-born violinist in her early twenties and was taught and encouraged by him for a decade before his death in 1992. In addition to the myriad of details passed on by master to pupil, Milstein always emphasised the three Ts: tone, taste and technique. “His example had a very big and lasting effect. Of course to be close to such a big personality at an early age had an enormous and profound influence on me. He was very strict with himself and insisted that it was the only way to be a good player, assuming you had a certain amount of talent to start with. Milstein had aristocratic taste and everybody still admires him for that.”
The Russian romantic violin tradition, observes Hideko Udagawa, was always alive to a player’s individuality and emotional response to the music. Yet it also perpetuated certain signature gestures and ways of expression. “I’m very careful not to play in the old style, with too much portamenti and so on, because we live in modern times,” she reflects. “But there are still things I do that feel right even though they’re very different from what you will hear from the younger generation of violinists today. I feel it’s a great honour when anyone tells me they can hear Milstein’s influence in my playing. Those influences and the memories I have of him are part of who I am as a performer and, I hope, are at the heart of this new album.”
Release date 9 April 2021 (Northern Flowers)
Hideko Udagawa violin | Petr Limonov piano
Rachmaninov Elegie Op.3, No.1 (transc. Mikhailovsky) (world premiere)
Tchaikovsky Romance Op.5 (transc. Mikhailovsky) (world premiere)
Tchaikovsky Valse Sentimentale Op.51, No.6
Kabalevsky Improvisation Op.21, No.1
Kabalevsky Rondo Op.69
Napravnik Four Pieces Op.64
Rimsky-Korsakov ‘Hymn to the Sun’ from Le coq d’or (transc. Kreisler)
Stravinsky Chanson Russe
Arensky Serenade Op.30, No.2
Arensky Tempo di Valse (transc. Heifetz)
Scriabin Nocturne Op.5, No.1 (transc. Mogilevsky)
Shostakovich Three Fantastic Dances Op.5 (transc. Tsyganov)
Shostakovich Five Preludes Op. 34, Nos. 2, 5, 11, 17 & 18 (transc. Tsyganov)
NOTES TO EDITORS
Hideko Udagawa has performed extensively throughout the world and captivates international audiences with her artistry and enthusiasm. Critics have acclaimed her performances, commending her passionate commitment, dazzling agility and refinement of taste. As a protégée of Nathan Milstein, she has inherited the great Russian romantic tradition of violin playing. Her performances have spanned thirty countries across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, and more than one hundred cities and towns in the United Kingdom alone.
Ms Udagawa made her orchestral debut in London with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Charles Mackerras, playing Bruch's G minor concerto at the Barbican Hall. Highlights from her other engagements include performances with the Philharmonia under Leonard Slatkin, Royal Philharmonic under Paavo Jarvi, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Marek Janowski, City of Birmingham Symphony under Okko Kamu, London Mozart Players under Matthias Bamert, Russian National under Paavo Berglund, as well as Moscow Philharmonic, English Chamber, National Symphony, Bavarian Radio and Armenian Philharmonic Orchestras.
In addition, she has made a twelve city tour in North America with the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg and tours in Japan with Warsaw Philharmonic under Kazimierz Kord and with Japan Philharmonic. She has also toured as a guest soloist with many visiting orchestras to the United Kingdom, including Berlin Symphony, Polish Chamber and Bucharest Philharmonic. Invitations to many international festivals have included the George Enescu, City of London, Norfolk & Norwich, Perth, Brno, Ankara and Assisi festivals.
In addition to live performances, Ms Udagawa has made a number of recordings which draw on her wide-ranging repertoire of over 40 concerti. She is particularly enthusiastic about discovering great unrecorded works. Her CD of works by Rachmaninov with the pianist Konstantin Lifschitz, for Signum Records, is the first ever collection of this popular composer's works for violin and piano and includes previously unrecorded pieces.
Her CD with the Philharmonia Orchestra was released by Signum Records in 2010 to coincide with her recital in Cadogan Hall. This CD was chosen as 'Presenter's Choice' by Classic FM Magazine and includes works for violin and orchestra by Joachim and Ysaye, recorded for the first time. Autumn 2011 she recorded Khachaturian Concerto Rhapsody and Liapunov Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which was also released by Signum Records in autumn 2012.
Recordings on Nimbus include Brahms and Bruch Violin Concerti with London Symphony under Sir Charles Mackerras, a CD devoted to the violin and piano music of Aram Khachaturian with Boris Berezovsky, in Spring 2015 rare 18th century concertos with the Scottish Chamber and in September 2015 Glazounov Concerto together with other works by Tchaikovsky, Chausson, Sarasate and Saint-Saens with the London Philharmonic. She has also made recordings of Heifetz transcriptions with Pavel Gililov for ASV and violin virtuoso pieces for Toshiba-EMI.
Hideko Udagawa studied with Nathan Milstein, who was her only teacher in the West, in London and at the Juilliard School in New York. After living in Tokyo and New York, she is now making her home in London.