Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b.1932)
Carmen Suite for Strings and Percussion (1967) [32.30]
Russian Photographs (1994) [23.50]
Veličanie (Glorification) (1995) [9.30]
Chamber Orchestra Kremlin/Misha Rachlevsky
rec Jan 2001, Moscow Conservatory
CLAVES CD 50-2207 [56.00]
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Spanish music is among the most easily identifiable – it has a unique rhythmic intensity and a passion that comes from entirely too much sunshine, windmill-sized vats of sherry and tables groaning with tapas. Russian music also has its own sound – no less passionate, but often infinitely more introspective and brooding, the musical embodiment of yearning. So you might think the combination of the two would lead to at least mild schizophrenia if not outright musical paranoia.

Not a bit of it. Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite must be one of the most brilliant of transcriptions – indeed, Shostakovich felt it should be elevated to the same level as the greatest transcriptions of Liszt or Busoni. Not only does the work show the deft hand of a master orchestrator, it also allows Shchedrin’s sense of humour to show through in several places. The reprise of the Toreador theme, for example, is played without the melody being heard except in the listener’s mind – a brilliant piece of communication. There are examples of the composer’s genius scattered throughout the thirteen-movement suite. The amazingly syncopated Changing of the Guard vignette, the relentless pace of the Bolero, the haunting lament of the Adagio – all these point to the mind of an artist who takes what many of us regard as overly familiar music and twists it in a vaguely uncomfortable but utterly fascinating manner. When I first heard this music a decade or more ago and drew breath again after the absorbing Finale, I remember conjuring up an image of Bizet listening in rapture and murmuring, "I wish I’d written that." Which would be a fitting riposte to the critics who trashed the work as verging on blasphemy when it was first performed by the Bolshoi.

Written almost thirty years after the Carmen Suite, Russian Photographs is a four movement suite in which Shchedrin’s humour again shows its face. The scurrying hordes of Cockroaches throughout Moscow, the second movement, are very realistically portrayed by rapid string passage work, while the following movement, a passacaglia entitled Stalin-Cocktail, is filled with the darker, sarcastic side of the composer’s sound world. This is very different music from the earlier work on the disc – intensely Russian and sombre – but incredibly evocative. This is one of those works for which I think full understanding comes only when you read the score, which I haven’t achieved yet. However, this is music that will certainly be regularly played in this household for some time to come. It fascinates you, draws you in and utterly absorbs you. I find the Evening Bells last movement incredibly personal – really communicative music.

Though translated as "Glorification", Veličanie is one of those Russian words that carries a wealth of semi-hidden allusions to folklore and folk history. In this brief piece for string orchestra commissioned by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Shchedrin twists our emotions brutally, carrying us from a triumphal opening fanfare through Shostakovich-like sarcasm and irony to unremitting tragedy. It is a dense work and not, perhaps, one of the most easily accessible routes to the composer’s work. It is, however, as one would expect of Shchedrin, a wonderfully wrought piece, building on relatively few motifs and through sparse orchestration in the opening bars to a rich sound tapestry that exploits the harmonic, discordant and percussive effects of a string orchestra to the full.

I have yet to find a Russian orchestra I don’t immediately like, and the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin is no exception. Founded by Misha Rachlevsky in 1991, it has a rich, vibrant sound and is obviously very comfortable with the widely disparate styles of music on this release. The orchestra has recorded some sixteen discs for Claves and is well worth seeking out.

A good introduction to the wide variety of this composer’s style, with the Carmen Suite performance, in particular, a real tour de force. Warmly recommended.


Tim Mahon


 


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Carmen Suite for Strings and Percussion
CDTnº1 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Introduction
CDTnº2 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Dance
CDTnº3 - R. SHCHEDRIN
First Intermezzo
CDTnº4 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Changing of the Guard

CDTnº5 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Carmen's Entrance and Habanera
CDTnº6 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Scene
CDTnº7 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Second Intermezzo
CDTnº8 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Bolero
CDTnº9 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Torero
CDTnº10 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Torero and Carmen
CDTnº11 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Adagio
CDTnº12 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Fortune Telling
CDTnº13 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Finale

CDTnº14 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Russian Photographs The Ancient Town of Aleksin

CDTnº15 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Russian Photographs Cockroaches throughout Moscow
CDTnº16 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Russian Photographs Stalin-Cocktail
CDTnº17 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Russian Photographs Evening Bells

CDTnº18 - R. SHCHEDRIN
Velicanie (Glorification)



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