A dacha is a summer home for Russians, away from the hurly-burly of the city, and can be as primitive as a cabin or as elaborate as a palace. A much-favored place for gatherings of intellectuals, dachas are a favored literary setting. In this film, adapted by Nikita Mikhailkov from Anton Chekhov's first play and some of his other works, the schoolteacher Platonov (Alexander Kalyagin) has come with his wife to spend a summer weekend at a friend's dacha. Among the other guests there, he meets his former lady-love Sophia (Elena Solovei), who is now married to another. Even though he thought he had recovered from his disappointed affection for her, he finds that this is not so for at least two reasons. First, she only recently got married; secondly, she is married to an idiot. Nostalgia spurs them to investigate their affection for one another, but eventually, as they remember their stations in life, their old love does not seem so important.
Barry Douglas’s decision in his Brahms series to mix and match pieces intuitively, rather than employing a strict sequence of genre or chronology, has given this series a pleasing personal slant, and Vol. 5 is no exception. Building the programme around three very different sets of variations, Douglas intersperses the more substantial works with palate-cleansing intermezzos, two little-known early Sarabandes – apparent fugitives from an unfinished Baroque-inspired suite or two – and one of Brahms’s not-so-jokey scherzos, the rugged Op. 4. Indeed, if you like your Brahms super-rugged, this CD will not disappoint. Douglas’s powerful tone and serious demeanour captures the composer’s uncompromising side; yet there’s a sense of flow that makes the intermezzos generous and warm without veering towards the emotionally indulgent. The Variations on a Hungarian Song and the Hungarian Dances are served on the bone with sour cream aplenty.
In this recording of the complete piano sonatas on period instruments, the Viennese master Paul Badura-Skoda delivers the work of a lifetime: Schubert's music with his passion, his suffering, and that inimitable tone which makes his native city the place so essentially and existentially identified with music. This collection of the twenty Sonatas for period piano recorded by Paul Badura-Skoda on the instruments in his own collection has every chance of being considered by posterity as one of the most creative and most significant achievements.