Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Chinese Suite No. 1 (1928)
Indian Suite (1927)

Moscow SO/Henry Shek
rec Moscow Nov 1994
MARCO POLO 8.223783 [69.42]

Vassilenko was a Muscovite who, like many another composer, studied law and then 'jumped ship' in favour of music. He tutored in orchestration and composition at Moscow Conservatory from 1906.

As is evident from this disc he was much affected by the Soviet East. He spent much time in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Vassilenko is a fastidious craftsman in his orchestration. Nothing of this tends to fat. Lines are lucid and clean. The Indian Suite can be sentimental but generally Vassilenko avoids Ketèlbeyan kitsch. Shooting these rapids can sometimes be a close squeeze as in Whirling Dance in Indian Suite and Joyful Dance and the almost Gaelic Lament in Chinese Suite.

The Burial movement from Chinese Suite alarmingly suggests Grace Williams (Ballads) and RVW (Symphony 5). All the music is determinedly tonal and no trial to enjoy. The approach to themes is out of Rimsky (Antar) but without Rimsky's heaviness of tread or, I fear, his mastery of ecstatic development. From this point of view Vassilenko probably shows greater fidelity to the autochthonous folk material. If you have Adolphe Biarent's Contes d'Orient (a wonderful work on Cyprès) then imagine a tad less luxuriance and a more objective individuality and you have Vassilenko.

Vassilenko wrote a great deal. There is a sequence of symphonic suites on folk materials: Turkmenian Pictures (1931), Soviet East (1932), Uzbek Suite (1943) and The Ukraine (1945). in addition there is a Symphony (1906) and a Violin Concerto (1913). He also turned his hand (as did the majority of Soviet composers) to State effusions like Red Army March (1929), Red Army Rhapsody (1932), Fantasia on Revolutionary Songs of the West (1931) and a Cantata on the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution (1937).

Useful notes and decent recording quality and performances. I hope that this not the last Vassilenko I hear.

Rob Barnett

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