Chinese Suite No. 1 (1928)
Moscow SO/Henry Shek
rec Moscow Nov 1994
MARCO POLO 8.223783
Vassilenko was a Muscovite who, like many another composer, studied law and
then 'jumped ship' in favour of music. He tutored in orchestration and
composition at Moscow Conservatory from 1906.
As is evident from this disc he was much affected by the Soviet East. He
spent much time in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Vassilenko is a fastidious craftsman in his orchestration. Nothing of this
tends to fat. Lines are lucid and clean. The Indian Suite can be
sentimental but generally Vassilenko avoids Ketèlbeyan kitsch. Shooting
these rapids can sometimes be a close squeeze as in Whirling Dance in
Indian Suite and Joyful Dance and the almost Gaelic Lament
in Chinese Suite.
The Burial movement from Chinese Suite alarmingly suggests
Grace Williams (Ballads) and RVW (Symphony 5). All the music is
determinedly tonal and no trial to enjoy. The approach to themes is out of
Rimsky (Antar) but without Rimsky's heaviness of tread or, I fear,
his mastery of ecstatic development. From this point of view Vassilenko probably
shows greater fidelity to the autochthonous folk material. If you have Adolphe
Biarent's Contes d'Orient (a wonderful work on Cyprès) then
imagine a tad less luxuriance and a more objective individuality and you
Vassilenko wrote a great deal. There is a sequence of symphonic suites on
folk materials: Turkmenian Pictures (1931), Soviet East (1932),
Uzbek Suite (1943) and The Ukraine (1945). in addition there
is a Symphony (1906) and a Violin Concerto (1913). He also turned his hand
(as did the majority of Soviet composers) to State effusions like Red
Army March (1929), Red Army Rhapsody (1932), Fantasia on
Revolutionary Songs of the West (1931) and a Cantata on the Twentieth
Anniversary of the October Revolution (1937).
Useful notes and decent recording quality and performances. I hope that this
not the last Vassilenko I hear.