Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

New Russian Chamber and Electronic Music
In the Spirit of Hermann Hesse (for saxophone quartet)
Warsaw Fantasy (for violin and piano)
Diptych (for quartet of reed instruments)
Nicolo (for violin and piano)
Adagio for UPIC (electronic composition)
In the Spirit of Herman Hesse - The Kiev Saxophone Quartet
Warsaw Fantasy - V Igolinsky (violin) and T Sergeeva (piano)
Stained Glass - Quartet of soloists of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the USSR (sic! - the copyright is dated 2000. No info on the dates of the recordings)
Nicolo - I Medvedeva(violin) and M Kravchenko (piano)
Adagio for UPIC - played at Les Ateliers UPIC (France, Massy)
BOHEME CDBMR 008 150 [57:76]

Born in 1942, Georgy Dmitriev has in recent years emerged as one of the most important and prolific Russian composers. He has evolved a musical language which openly acknowledges its roots in Russian tradition but which also embraces Western avant-garde techniques. Much of his music is of a religious character. In its use of quotations from the works of other composers and indulgence in pastiche, his music also bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Schnittke, though he does this with much greater restraint.

In the Spirit of Hermann Hesse (1986) is the most substantial piece on this disc. As its title indicates, the work was inspired by the writings of Hesse (1877-1962), one of whose concerns was 'the difficulties put in the way of the individual in his efforts to build up an integrated and harmonious self'. Employing the unusual medium of a saxophone quartet (from which he draws an astonishing range of colours), Dmitriev piles up what he calls 'a free sequence of cinematic images' written in every conceivable musical style and exploring a wide range of moods. Whether the result is 'an integrated and harmonious self' is for the listener to decide.

In the Warsaw Fantasy (1983) for violin and piano Dmitriev presents a picture of the Polish capital and introduces snatches of the music of Wieniawski and Chopin in what is a distinctive whirligig of sound. Most extraordinary of all is Nicolo, 'a quasi-Romantic fantasy', written in 1982 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Paganini. It calls for - and is accorded by violinist I Medvedeva - an incredible degree of virtuosity, vividly portraying 'the playing style of the frenzied Genoese' and quoting Schumann's Carnaval as well as Paganini himself. The unexpectedly simple and serene ending makes clever use of plucked piano strings 'à la guitar'. A stunning piece.

The rarefied sound-world of the 1982 Diptych (for oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone and bassoon), two studies suggested by the contrast between grisaille and coloured glass, was rather too cerebral for my taste. Finally, there is the electronic piece Adagio for Upic which was the fruit of the composer's visit to Xenakis's celebrated Paris studio in 1990: fascinating, no doubt, to devotees of the genre, but it meant nothing to me.

Altogether, Dmitriev is an unusual composer and he is here very well served by performers and recording alike.

Adrian Smith

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