The Ukraine has a
rich classical tradition. From the 1920s onwards composers such
as Lev Revutsky and Boris Lyatoshinsky made an impact. Their first
symphonies date respectively from 1916-18 and 1918-20. The former's
two symphonies were recorded on Melodiya LPs. The latter has had
his symphonies on CPO and Russian Disc. These figures jostled
with less famous composers such as Mikhail Verikovsky and Mykola
Leontovich. In the 1950s and 1960s a dichotomy emerged between
the state conformists and the dissonants. The former included
Andry Shtogarenko (time for reissue of the Violin Concerto on
CD) and Klimenty Dominchen and the latter, most famously Valentin
This is a valuable
series even if Angelok1 give us so little information about
the composers and still less about the music and the recordings.
I have no idea when these pieces were written nor when and where
the recordings were made. That said we can guess that the sessions
happened in Kharkov sometime between 1980 and 2004. As for the music it
probably dates from between 1950 and 1980. There is no applause
so this will be material recorded for broadcast - and going
by the very lively acoustic the venue sounds like a large public
concert venue rather than a radio studio.
What information there
is about the composers – and it’s precious little - is printed
on the inside face of the rear insert for each of the two single
width jewel cases.
Yarovinsky graduated from the Kharkov Conservatoire in 1949 having
taken part in World War 2. His ballet About Marina, from
which we hear nine segments, is an eclectic piece. It encompasses
Bernstein-like brashness (3), a Mantovani swoon (4) as well
as Tin Pan Alley and Broadway commercial swing (5). These elements
also appear in some of the Eshpai ballet music recorded on Albany. There's plenty of drumkit hiss and whisper and as well
as a moonlit Glenn Miller orchestral croon. Perhaps this is
what those big Soviet musicals of the Stalin era sounded like.
There's a touch of Khachaturian's Masquerade music about
this, too. We even get some melodrama in the penultimate section.
On the other hand there's tragic gestural writing for stuttering
drums and defiant bitter brass at the very end - sumptuous rhetoric.
His brief Peremozhtsy
has the wild-eyed triumphant air of a military celebration yet
splashed with brash romance. Korolyoke is a populist
effusion - pretty much a Carry On score. It's just as
zany as the recently recorded Skalkottas Nocturnal Amusement
for the same forces ... no, really!
We then put such things
aside for the three movement Symphony No. 4. A busily forward
rushing first movement has the air of an exuberant buffeting
attack on some hilltop fortress. Much the same can be said of
the finale which is suffused with a confidently smiling sense
of an upland future. Only the occasional grey cloud scuds across
the field of vision. Without the complexity of Svetlanov's own
symphony and Khrennikov's First this has something of their
urgency, headlong despair and surging joy. It's dashing and
desperate music written, as with all of Yarovinsky's scores
here, with an easy gift for accessibility. It draws on the most
whistleable aspects of Prokofiev, Kabalevsky, Shebalin and Boiko.
The second movement of the Symphony is very romantic and always
tonal. There's lissom writing for woodwind and fine harp flourishes
as well as grand hieratic address from the brass benches.
The Kharkhov Orchestra
are on very fine form though there seemed to be a hint of distortion
here and there in the recording. You also note a very resonant
and lively acoustic accentuating gloriously vibrant writing
for horns and trumpets.
Gaidamaka graduated from the Kiev Conservatory in 1957 having studied
with Boris Lyatoshinsky. His career moved between Kiev and Kharkov. In 1970
he was Secretary of the Ukrainian Composers' Union in Donetsk. His
short single movement Oboe Concerto mixes whirling dance elements
in a rather furious Hungarian Dallok attire with folksy romanticism
veering close to the English pastoral. This fusion works very
well with a closely recorded soloist melding with an equally
up-close and personal harp. The pointed and dancing oboe skips
and smiles slyly. It rises and falls, borne up on waves of village-collective
joy. The composer also adds themes carried by dashes of broadly
brushed romantic string writing. Vesnitsa is referred
to as a 'Polyphonic Suite'. It is in five movements. The first
is memorable for a benign romantic melody and the chilly singing
impacts of the xylophone. The big band strings are plush with
the air of Capriol and Elizabethan Serenade. It
ends with a sturdy fugue which is the least interesting part
of an otherwise attractive work. The Lysenko Variations are
again very warm, rounded and romantic as well as vibrant in
the manner of the Rococo Variations. There’s none of
Yarovinsky's populist commercialism. It is rather like a mix
Massenet, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky. There are some grandiloquent
moments where Gaidamaka touches on tragedy as at 9:43
We then hear three
symphonic extracts from Ponomarenko's The Brotherhood
of Dniepr and Dombras. This is a feral and torrid affair.
It’s a sort of superheated Manfred or Francesca da
Rimini alternating with lovely writing for the oboe and
an agreeably reedy clarinet. This is very pleasing - sounding
for all the world like a backdrop to a monumental and turbulent
love affair played out across a great battlefield. The brass
strain at the engineers' capabilities yet the recording has
enormous presence whether at triple forte or pianissimo. There
is a more festive air to the final segment of the work - almost
balletic. The story has ended happily. There were moments in
hearing this work when I thought of Gogol's Taras Bulba but
there is little tragedy here. Soviet realism has again regained
the sunlit crest. Apart from the perhaps too facile ending -
again skilfully done - this work is the highlight of an entertaining
The third and so far
final 2CD set in the Angelok1 line-up starts with Zolotukhin's
seven movement suite from the ballet Into the Fire of Greece.
Here the recording is very good indeed - not something that
could always be said of the second volume. Frankly this is wonderfully
tuneful music with stratospheric and agreeably braying trumpet
writing lofted and sustained. There are fine leonine melodies
and plenty of rhythmic interest - a sort of Ukrainian Moeran.
In fact the first movement of the suite is a rhapsodic pastoral
and could easily be heard as a collaboration between Howells
and Goossens - a sort of warm romance with a liquid sense of
forward motion and rawly ecstatic trumpets. The music patters
in nocturnal tension and even teeters near the margin of dissonance
in section 3. The final part has a radiant and leisurely-paced
melody carrying all the long-breathed stamina of Khachaturian's
Kovach announces himself immediately as of a later generation.
Tavria’s dissonance and complexity appear to be
an evolution of Scriabin's writing for hieratic trumpet. There
is a clear narrative arc to this piece which ends in a tense
but smiling meditation moving into silence. Kovach's Cello
Concertino is peppery and rhythmically unmistakable. It
is communicative in the way that vigorous writing by Shostakovich
holds the attention. It has the accentuated grunt of Herrmann's
string orchestra score for Psycho. Kovach's ballet music
for the Singing Fairy Tale is spiky, mysterious and vivid.
It makes constantly imaginative use of spatial effects. He shows
himself a master of the orchestra in music that has the pointed
precision of Shostakovich and the rhythmic and haunting folk
spirit of the Prokofiev ballets. Section 3 (tr.12) uses a deep-lunged
melody from the same family as the gorgeous tune in Prokofiev's
Seventh Symphony. The finale has a pattering determination and
agreeably grating woodwind tone. Given the hiss this is surely
a transcription of analogue recording. Finally we come to the
very brief Symphonic Dithyramb. This is exciting music
in the style of Prokofiev - a restless victorious wave where
pennants snap and crack in the brazen gale. Some of the writing
recalls the Classical Symphony.
The second disc of
volume 3 takes us back to Yarovinsky with the urgent
cinematographic rock and rumble of Zaklik. This involves
more brash patriotic flag-waving with brass as roaringly abrasive
as they are splendid.
The rest of the disc
is devoted to more than an hour of Borisov. We start
with his soulful Romantic Tale which shares atmosphere
with Rubbra's Soliloquy and with the Gordon Jacob First
Viola Concerto. Fairytale glisten meets melancholic romance.
The result picks up on film scores such as Hermann's Marnie.
The four movement Music for String Orchestra is similarly
doleful and pregnant with severity in the first and third movements.
There’s a sinister dancing pizzicato in the second. The music
moves between the worlds of Van Dieren and Karl Amadeus Hartmann.
Borisov's Violin Concerto is in three movements the first of
which is sedate and reflective - soon establishing an atmosphere
similar to Respighi's Concerto Gregoriano. The middle
movement is more sunny and optimistic yet staid and dignified.
The finale dances with a greater brilliance and pointed folk-dance
energy. The farewell to Borisov comes with the four movement
Divertissement: no surface glamour, patently sincere
and serious music with little swirls of harp and wispy interjections.
The last movement is a wild rumpus - a dance of the coven and
of the clowns with percussion pointing up the rhythmic contours.
All three volumes in
this fascinating sequence from Angelok1 are available separately.
It's a pity that this
series is not better documented although there is far more information
in the first set. If anyone can fill out dates and background
for these works then we will be happy to add this to the review.
to Review of Volume 1