We have not heard much from Hobart Earle; at least not since the late 1990s. At that time this Venezuelan-born conductor of American descent had been appointed conductor of the Odessa Philharmonic. He had built it up from poverty-stricken origins to a highly professional outfit. Clearly he lavished much dedicated work on them - that shows in this disc - and having achieved a dramatic level of success has stayed on. If you know his name at all it is because he conducted the Odessa Philharmonic for recordings issued on two imaginative ASV CDs: review review
. Those discs remain invaluable sources permitting us to hear large-scale Ukrainian symphonic works by Mykola Kolessa, Myroslav Skoryk, Yevhen Stankovych and Reinhold Gliere. On 27 June 27, 2013 Earle was made Narodny Artist Ukrainy (People’s Artist of Ukraine) by then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. That same honour is also held by Myroslav Skoryk. You can read more about Earle's odyssey with the Odessa Phil here
. I would be interested to know how he is faring following the recent upheavals.
Myroslav Skoryk was born Lviv in the Ukraine and studied at the city's Music School in 1945 which was interrupted by deportation to Siberia. Being permitted to return in 1955 he continued his studies but during 1960–64 he went to the Moscow Conservatory to take his doctorate with Kabalevsky. His students include at the Kiev Conservatory included Yevhen Stankovych and Osvaldas Balakauskas. Ivan Karabits
whose son Kirill now conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, was also one of his students.
His melodic music is strongly affected by Carpatho-Ukrainian folk music. That much is clear from the start. The delicate gurgle of Childhood
- a movement from the Hutsul Triptych
he recorded complete on one of those ASV discs. It's broadly Rimskian but delicate, gurgling, swaying and rumbustious in the manner of Gliere and Bartok. The rather severely named Diptych
for string orchestra is romantic rather than explicitly folksy. Its first segment is slow-paced, poignant and tragic in tone - a shade Mahlerian and Hollywoodish in a noir
way while the second is fast, busy, desperate and laced with anxiety rising to furious before a coda returns us to the quiet of the opening. The miniature Caprice No. 19
is for full orchestra and shifts rapidly from boozy village-band uproar in saturated colours to hazy contemplation.
The Violin Concerto No. 7
launches unconventionally with the insistent thus of the bass drum before the violin solo launches a flight in incessant melodious line with some angst threaded through amid the romantic quasi-Bruch lilt. Waspish gypsy fiddler display lifts the paint off the wall. This is a very mercurial concerto with a resplendent range of moods accommodated within less than a quarter hour and all flickering rapidly in and out of focus. The violin scorchingly echoes the opening drumbeat at 9:28. Whatever happened to the other six violin concertos.
A very short slippery and lightly melodious Melodi
for strings - Barber's Adagio
without the piled-high grief - precedes the Cello Concerto
. The Shevchenko Prize-winning work is the opposite of the flamboyant violin concerto. It is inward and reflective and nurtures the natural soul of the cello. There are some soulfully romantic moments but its emotional vortex leads it back time and again to rapt yet passionate contemplation. The pulse is always such that the music never staggers to a halt. The second half of the work is at first more of a tempestuous Boanerges but that pull towards soliloquy - almost prayer - is again in evidence. Hints of the engine room of violence throb again only to be vanquished by the solitary singer who has the last word.
The Spanish Dance
again provides a gentle feathery diversion with a solo violin that dances delicately. This is a movement from Skoryk's The Stone Host
suite on the same story that inspired Mozart's Don Giovanni
and Dargomyshky's opera The Stone Guest
. It's a pastel-oriental piece that is easy to like. This light bonne-bouche paves the way for a work they also recorded for ASV: the characterful Carpathian Concerto for Orchestra
. is full of colour and rhythmic invention though nowehere near as folksy as the Hutsul Triptych
. The stomping dance of the first movement recalls Copland and Piston while the work's brilliance also takes in chattering, tension building, some floridly heroic writing for brass and percussion and the odd doffing of the hat in the direction of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra
The recording is well up to the standards of the premium price competition and the playing by soloists and orchestra shows how far they have come with Hobart Earle along a tortuous and winding road. Earle has been absent from our radar for a long time although I gather he has made CDs with Albany. Most recently he can be heard championing Igor Raykhelson’s orchestral music on Toccata
on one of his regular visits to Moscow.
Naxos are great ones for series. I rather hope they will unleash this conductor and orchestra on a wide-ranging Ukrainian line taking in other composers: Shtogarenko, Revutsky, Shaporin (especially his 1930s symphony), Bibik, Gubarenko, Kolessa (we need to hear his Second Symphony) and Maiboroda.
In the liner-notes I would have welcomed details of the premieres of each piece and more biographical information linking the works to Skoryk's life. The help of Virko Baley - the dedicatee of Silvestrov's Sixth Symphony - and Lesya Oleinik is acknowledged.