With two discs from Olympia and one
from Laurel the symphonies of Alexander Lokshin
are slowly tightening their grip on the catalogue.
Lokshin carries the burden
of being dubbed by Schnittke, Tischenko and
Shostakovich a ‘genius’ and ‘great composer’.
Siberian-born, he was driven by pogroms from
his remote township to the city of Novosibirsk.
He progressed from local studies to working
with Miaskovsky in Moscow. His dangerous fascination
with setting Baudelaire (viewed as decadent
by the Soviets) resulted in his expulsion
from the Moscow Conservatory. After war service
cut short by illness he returned to the fold
in Moscow but 1948 saw his expulsion yet again.
During these wilderness years he made his
money with various hack jobs including film
music and arranging.
In 1957, as the political-cultural
thaw set in, he wrote his First Symphony using
the complete Latin Requiem text. All the symphonies
(and there are eleven of them) use words -
all that is apart from the Fourth. In the
other ten he variously set Rudyard Kipling
(superbly in the Third Symphony), Pushkin,
Blok (a poet also set by Yuri Shaporin in
his On the Field of Kullikovo - a work
whose Melodiya Svetlanov recording is in desperate
need of CD attention - do any readers have
this LP?), Camões and Shakespeare,
His Fourth Symphony (his
only non-vocal symphony) is in the form of
a seamlessly fused introduction, theme and
six variations with a conclusion (all separately
banded here). The symphony accentuates protest
through harsh dissonance. There are a few
moments in which the protesting dissonance
relents. In variation 5 the clarinet rhapsodises
around a whistleable theme and in the next
variation it is the solo violin that provides
relaxation from the predominant rapacious
The Three Faust Scenes
are in nine tracks (three movements)
and belong in the company of a Lokshin symphony
by virtue of its kinship with so many song-cycle
symphonies and the fact that the composer
occasionally referred to it as his ‘Symphony
No. 12’. It dates from a dozen years after
the Stretta and while by no means unsubtle
it is a work much easier to approach than
the Fourth Symphony. Dissonance still plays
its part but melodic communication, which
flits in rare motes and shards in the Fourth
Symphony, is absolutely central here. Tippett-like
melisma also plays its part (tr.11, 06.02)
recalling his British counterpart's Third
Symphony at least at that point. Ginastera
(Milonga) and Burgon (Requiem)
also crossed my mind as I listened to this
piece. He certainly does not sound like Shostakovich!
The Intermedia is an apt illustration
of the whole work with its drugged ecstatic
suggestion. Perhaps the Baudelaire inspiration
had struck deeper than anyone had guessed.
The setting develops a highly operatic heft
in variation 4 where the admirable Tabery
suddenly ascends into starry melodrama - here
is a composer who knows his In Questa Reggia.
The words sung in Russian
are printed in Cyrillic with a side-by-side
translation in the notes. The background is
provided with admirable attention to detail
by Marina Lobanova.
I know the Olympia discs
but am keen to review the Laurel disc if only
I can make contact with Laurel.
Roll on the next BIS Lokshin
chapter and let's hope that the next disc
tackles the Third Symphony setting Kipling
(including a horror-struck Danny Deever
in its most humanist setting ever) for
solo baritone, chorus and orchestra. It is
a rugged work of exciting contrasts and is
highly accessible in the manner of Oedipus
Rex mixed with 1960s choral Penderecki.
It will come as little surprise to hear that
the version I know is a radio broadcast from
circa 1980 with the BBCSO conducted by Rozhdestvensky.
This represents a promising
start to a project that I trust will result
in a symphonic intégrale from BIS.
There is no competition so if you have a taste
for a challenging late romantic modernism
do not hesitate.