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Programme Note

Allegro appassionato – Andante – Scherzo: Presto – Allegro maestoso

The Russian composer Leokadiya Kashperova is currently enjoying a resurgence of interest after more than a century of neglect. She was born in 1872 and, to commemorate the occasion of her 150th Jubilee, a new Edition of her music has been published enabling performers – and audiences – to access her rarely-heard, thoroughly Romantic, music for the first time.

In the twenty years following her graduation from the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 1895 all her major works were premiered, and many were published: a symphony, piano concerto, choral works, chamber music, piano solos, and art-songs. Between 1899 and 1901 she taught Igor Stravinsky who acknowledged his gratitude to her in his autobiography (1936).

Kashperova’s two Cello Sonatas opus 1 (in G major & E minor) are expansive Romantic compositions in four movements. They display such compositional assurance and breadth of expression they must surely rank amongst the most impressive ‘opus 1’ creations by any young composer.

The brilliance of the piano writing in the Second Cello Sonata, especially in the Scherzo marked Presto and in the Finale, is an indication of the composer’s own abilities: she was considered the most gifted student of Anton Rubinstein’s elite Piano Class.

The dedicatee of the Cello Sonatas was the eminent cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich, section leader of the Maryinsky Orchestra, whose pupils included Leopold, father of Mstislav Rostropovich. Kashperova composed a third Cello Sonata for Verzhbilovich which they performed as a duo in Moscow and St Petersburg in 1908. But like so many of Kashperova’s mature compositions the score was lost in the upheaval of Kashperova’s flight from Petrograd following the 1917 Revolution. The search to find it continues.

Kashperova visited London twice in 1907, performing her Piano Trio in D and piano suite In the Midst of Nature at the Aeolian Hall and Queens Hall. The Sunday Times observed: ‘her music shows a decided talent, very attractive in its tunefulness, grace and Russian fitfulness of mood’. In 1912 The Russian Musical Gazette noted appreciatively that ‘Kashperova’s gifts as a composer are a most welcome phenomenon of St Petersburg’s musical life.’

Kashperova’s catalogue testifies to over fifty years’ creativity and establishes her as one of the very earliest female Russian composers of international stature. After a century of neglect this once-celebrated but long-forgotten composer awaits re-discovery.

© Dr Graham Griffiths, 2022
(Editor: Kashperova Edition, Boosey & Hawkes, London)

This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to Dr Graham Griffiths.

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