> KALNINS Symphony 4 Resnis MRCD103 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Imants KALNINS (b. 1941)
Symphony No. 4 (1973)
Pattie Cohenour (soprano)
Liepajas SO/Imants Resnis
rec Riga, Latvia, 18-19 Nov 1998




Kalnins strikes a mechanistic stance with his motor-rhythmic crescendo at the start of the allegretto. Having risen to a climactic statement that pulse rhythm (which returns in the vehemence of the finale) is caught up by a drumkit over which a Boléro-like lonely clarinet theme is played. This is developed over that insistent pulse with repetitive minimalistic elements - notable among these is the French Horns' triple-accented cell.

The music has the mesmeric 'draw' of Valentin Silvestrov's Fifth Symphony (try BMG-Melodiya and Sony). I can imagine the conductor Dzanzhug Khakidze making hay with this work. The whole of the first movement might be said to be a tribute to Ravel's Boléro though musically richer. The second movement is a lovely andante tranquillo of the musette/sleighride variety with much use of percussion (rather like Shostakovich 15 though even more accessible) with a poignant cry/scream for the piccolos and a repeated Tchaikovsky-out-of-Shostakovich sigh for the violins. The Grave molto's brassy address is part-Tchaikovsky 4 and part-Shostakovich 10 melting into a sentimental quicksilver theme like an austere take on Elizabethan Serenade. It comes as a shock that the last movement (like Mahler 4) features a vocalist. Pattie Cohenour has a populist quality of voice meeting on the boundaries of the operatic diva and grand Broadway. Parallel voices might be Cathy Berberian, Elizabeth Montgomery and Cleo Laine. She is affecting, gutsy, tender and angry, phantasmal. The words speak of a love affair run to decay and sadness.

The work might well merit description as a sort of minimalist symphony - Reich out of Shostakovich out of Sondheim. I find it completely irresistible and so will you if you like Nyman, Silvestrov, high-art Broadway, Berio's Folk-Songs and pop culture transformed into something 'rich and strange'.

The orchestral sound is lively and resonant like a golden age Melodiya recording of Khachaturyan. This is a concert performance with the odd shuffle and cough (not many) and I am sure that after hearing the disc you will end up wishing you had been there.

There are at least five other symphonies and I want to hear them!

The very brief notes are in Latvian only.

Rob Barnett


My good friend Maris Kristapsons has provided the following additional background:

When Kalnins wrote the work in the early '70s, he was in the throes of a passionate romance with an American poet/writer named Kelly Cherry. The text he used in the Symphony is one of her poems. When it came time to premiere the work, the Communist authorities were not pleased and forced him to rewrite the movement purely instrumentally, and suppressed any mention of its true origin. It was not until 1998 or so that the original version was finally premiered as Kalnins intended it. Long before then, however, the romance had soured.

I never cared much for the work in its purely instrumental form, but with the vocal finale it makes much more sense and I've come to appreciate it more. I also feel that the Latvian CD of the premiere is superior to the BIS version. Kalnins' 6th Sym was premiered last August. It's over an hour long, with choral passages in the 2nd & 4th movements. The first 3 movts didn't strike me particularly, but the finale was devastating -- the first time I heard it, after it was over, I just sat for a while, overwhelmed.


See also Latvian sampler

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.