> Alexander Lokshin - Symphony No.4 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Alexander LOKSHIN (1920-1987)
Symphony No. 4 Sinfonia Stretta (1968) [16.41]
Trois Scènes du Faust de Goethe for soprano and orchestra (1980) [37.45]
Vanda Tabery (sop)
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Bremen/Michel Swierczewski
rec. July 2000, Gutsscheune Varrel, Bremen, Germany, DDD
BIS-CD-1156 [55.14]


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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, among others.

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 belligerence.

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.

Rob Barnett

see Lokshin website


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