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Leonid DESYATNIKOV (b.1955) Sketches to Sunset (1992) [21:31] Russian Seasons for Violin, Voice and Strings (2000) [37:19]
Roman Mints (violin) Alexey Goribol (piano) Yana Ivanilova (voice)
Brno Philharmonic Orchestra,
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Philipp Chizhevsky
rec. 2014, Besedni Dum Brno, Czech Republic; 2016, Lithuanian National Radio Studio, Vilnius QUARTZ QTZ2122 [58:50]
Desyatnikov was born in 1955 in Kharkiv in the Ukraine. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory. There are four operas and much else including film music and The Rite of Winter (a symphony for choir, soloists and orchestra). Since the mid-1990s, he has collaborated musically with Gidon Kremer. I confess to having struggled with Desyatnikov's two-act opera The Children of Rosenthal (2015) on Melodiya (MELCD1002432) and have not yet completed my review. This disc presented no such problems.
These two half-hour pieces have an approachable face. One of them has already been recorded; the other (Sketches to Sunset) is heard for the first time separated from its film setting. The scores are for full orchestra in one case (Sketches) and a string orchestra in the other (Russian Seasons). Each has been set down in a different venue.
Sketches to Sunset is based on Desyatnikov's music for the film Sunset after Isaac Babel. Let's hope it will get a showing on TV. The music here is supple, uninhibited and rippling with dissolute life. It's patently Jewish with forthright klezmer accents. Allusions to other sources abound. These are recognisable but processed into the mix: the strutting tango, an echo of Rachmaninov's notorious prelude and a sequence of violin solos. Try tr. 8 with its superb, hoarsely whistling and dry-throated violin; it's almost Dr Zhivago but before things become too commercial the composer catches himself and adds a discordant piano and woodwind paragraph. He then returns to an endearing and strangely un-chilly blizzard of violin solo acrobatics. Here is a composer unafraid of sentimentality but who can also be almost anarchic. All the episodes are separately tracked - there are nine of them. Desyatnikov has the integrity and valour to end quietly as he does in final quiet breathing movement of these Sketches to Sunset.
Russian Seasons is for violin, voice and strings. It has been recorded in a warm moody acoustic. There are twelve movements, each being separately tracked. These range through discordant village fiddler effects, echoed by rough Bartókian strings to the sound of orthodox chant, subdued and unglamorous. The singer Yana Ivanilova is possessed of a wild rasping coloratura and lets us know about it. Seven of the 12 songs are minus the voice. Some nice warm pizzicato lightens the scene while The Cuckoo's Lament comes complete with cuckoo-call. Roman Mints rolls and swerves the notes like the master he is. In Shrovetide Song one can almost see the dry grain husks and rising dust. The music here is comparable with the 'dancing floor' middle movement of the Moeran Violin Concerto. The Whit Monday Song is sweet and dignified and continues the long tradition of Russian melody while the Stomping Song capers about like a wild Hungarian Friss. It's a bit like Tippett in its rapturous insistence and rhythmic opulence. Autumnal Song is a dignified village dance of stately character. Wedding Song is very subdued and heavy with foreboding; again the cuckoo chirps away.
Mints' programme note in English is very useful. It is open, devoid of technicality and rich in context.
All the words are sung in Russian and the booklet gives them in Cyrillic and English.
This is Quartz's second Desyatnikov CD. The first, on which Mints also worked, is The Leaden EchoQTZ2087.
Track-Listing Sketches to Sunset (1992)
Absalom's Death [2:44]
Death in Venice [2:52]
Jewish Lambada [1:51]
Absalom's Death [2:38]
Lot's Daughters [1:03]
Take Five and Seven [1:47]
Tango e-moll [2:40]
Russian Seasons for Violin, Voice and Strings (2000)
Easter Greeting Song (Христовская) [2:40]
Swaying Song (Качульная) [2:30]
St. George's Day Song (Ягорьевская) [4:35]
Cuckoo's Lament (Плач с кукушкой) [2:03]
Whit Monday Song (Духовская) [4:41]
Stomping Song (Толотная) [3:12]
Fasting Song (Постовая) [4:04]
Autumnal Song (Восенная) [2:16]
Wedding Song (Свадёбская) [3:58]
Сhristmastide Song (Cвятошная) [1:07]
Shrovetide Song (Масленная) [1:39]
Last Song (Последняя) [4:10]