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Boris Mikolayovich LYATOSHYNSKY (1895-1968)
Symphony No.3, in B minor Peace shall defeat War Op.50 (1951) [44:35]
Grazhyna, Symphonic Ballad after Adam Mickiewicz Op.58 (1955) [18:38]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
rec. 2018¸ The Lighthouse, Poole, UK

Congratulations to Chandos and especially to Kirill Karabits for not only playing Lyatoshynsky in concert but also making recordings. This is to Karabits' great credit and his example will, I hope, be followed by his colleague conductor in Birmingham, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla - her Lithuanian countrymen's orchestral music on disc would be welcome indeed. Record companies step forward, please. For now, we look to Bournemouth as an example setter. This is, after all, Karabits' second CD of rare orchestral music from the east. The first in what I presume began the "Voices from the East" line featured Karayev a composer from Azerbaijan.

Lyatoshynsky was Ukrainian and although born in the nineteenth century was the quintessential twentieth-century practitioner, although his allegiance was to tonality. Of the music of his that I have heard there is nothing as "adventurous" as, say, Kabalevsky's Cello Concerto No. 2 or Shostakovich's Second Concertos for violin and for cello. A pupil of Gličre at Kiev University, this Soviet medal winner and holder of various state prizes and accolades was the teacher of Valentin Silvestrov and Ivan Karabits, the father of the present conductor. Amongst much else Lyatoshynsky wrote five symphonies and all have been recorded and issued first on Marco Polo and then on Naxos (review review). His songs have been released on Toccata and some of his piano music can be found on Bis. The symphonies first appeared, in Eastern Bloc performances, on Melodiya, Russian Disc and a CD on CPO where the Cracow Orchestra was conducted by Roland Bader.

Lyatoshynsky's big, burly and grown-up Third Symphony carries a superscription "To the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the October Revolution". It belongs in the same league as the First Symphonies by Boris Tchaikovsky and Mieczyslaw Weinberg and the two core wartime symphonies of Myaskovsky: 24 and 25. Even the dedication did not stop Lyatoshynsky getting into hot water over the too "downbeat" finale; so much so that there was a ban on performances until Lyatoshynsky came up with a more positive alternative movement. The original is favoured here.

The first movement of the Third Symphony seems to reek of cordite and resonate with tocsins and turmoil. It's full of foreboding until a rather Myaskovskian allegro puts in an appearance. It bears something of a resemblance to the similar intervention in Myaskovsky's symphony No. 21. This figure returns at 8:11 and 8:35. The pace then seeps away at 10.00 to become becalmed in inky morose depths. From 13:00 until the end the score sounds more like celebratory Rimsky-Korsakov but always under louring clouds. The long Andante is idyllic and very romantically colourful. It's very much like Herrmann's "Rosebud" music from Citizen Kane. The clouds gather and the pace becomes indomitable, marked by the rhythm of a clock carillon. Rather than radiating cheeriness this is full-on remorseless and hammering the point home, punctuated by a side-drum. This boils to a climax at 8:00 and there is a romantic string melody from which emerges a rapturously affecting climax on the horns at 9:44.

The short Allegro feroce seethes with threat, more so than in Kuchar's version on Naxos. The sound of the orchestra is light on the aural palate but still carries the suggestion of weight. High and silvery strings carry a rather magical Slavonic melody. The finale seems to portray choppy seas but laced with romance. There is something searing among all the romantic atmosphere and this gradually attains ascendancy in turmoil and ravings. This is sound and fury personified but not signifying nothing. The symphonic striving leads us into aggrandising celebration and tramping victory. The effect is rather like a successor to the finale of Glazunov's Symphony No. 8. We seem to be wandering into a vision of old Russia with bells ringing out. It is along the lines of Rimsky and Mussorgsky where brazen Czarism and swirls of savagery meet and coalesce.

Four years later Lyatoshynsky wrote Grazhyna. This is based on the poem by Polish literary figure Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855). Chopin also set two of Mickiewicz's poems as songs. With its potent atmospherics this work has more in common with The Isle of The Dead and Thamar than with Janáček's Taras Bulba. The poem recounts the tale of a female Lithuanian chieftain who fought against the Teutonic Knights (presumably the same ones who appear in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky) and was eventually slain. The work starts with slowly swirling writing recalling Balakirev's Thamar. The score is full of increasingly intense work for the brass and finally subsides into a sort of gloom after a flash of grandiloquence. The ending is very quiet and this aspect is superbly handled by Karabits and the technical team of producer, Andrew Walton and engineer, Ben Connellan. Their commanding and vigorously potent work can be heard throughout in a disc which I auditioned in standard CD form.

The very full notes are by Andrew Burn and are in English, German and French.

Rob Barnett


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