Chandos are to be congratulated for this disc of première recordings.
However, Natalya Savkina's booklet notes are inadequate. She omits vital
information failing to tell us, for example, that when Dukelsky was in the
USA he was known as Vernon Duke and wrote 'pop' songs which have now been
taken by Sylvia McNair and Dawn Upshaw.
The ballet, Zéphyr et Flore, appeared in 1925 when the composer
was only 22 and was produced by Diaghilev. Poulenc and others remarked on
Dukelsky's dependence upon Prokofiev and indeed the older composer promoted
his music. The ballet has a few fine moments but most of it is merely pleasant.
Savkina refers to the waltz movement as thrilling which my colleagues and
I found ordinary. Myaskovsky, the under rated Russian master, said that the
theme of the Theme and Variations was 'sweet and reminiscent of youth' which
indicates the problem of this work, its immaturity. It has no personal voice
and three years later Prokofiev had to help Dukelsky with his Symphony
No 1 as the orchestration was poor. This further indicates that he did
not work hard under the excellent tutelage of Reinhold Glière.
Epitaphe of 1931 is a better work but still lacks a personal voice or any
outstanding music. It sets poems by Osip Mandelstam and would appear to be
a memorial to Diaghilev who had died in 1929. It also shows the composer's
dislike for the Russian régime and why he eventually became an American
citizen. The soprano soloist is excellent as is the choir although one has
to say that the material is ordinary, if not poor.
As far as I can tell the performances are good ... the recording certainly
is. I think the music is not particularly inspiring but you must make that
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