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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Andrei ESHPAI (1925-) vol. 3
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1992) [18.01]

Vitaly Shapkin, flute
Chaikovsky Large Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Vedernikov, conductor
Re. Grand Hall, Moscow Conservatory, 4 Nov 1994, premiere
Songs of the Mountain and Meadow Mari (1983) [15.28]

USSR State Large Symphony Orchestra/Vasily Sinaisky
Rec. Moscow 1983
Concerto for Double Bass and String Orchestra (1994-95) [15.41]

Rifat Komachkov, double bass
Moscow Conservatory Orchestra/Gennady Cherkasov
Rec. Moscow 1996
Symphony No. 1 (1959) [16.53]

USSR State Large Symphony Orchestra/Konstantin Ivanov
Rec. Moscow 1961


Albany has a special relationship with Eshpai. In February 1992 he attended a concert of the Albany Symphony Orchestra when they performed his Concerto For Orchestra. The master tapes on which this series of recordings is based came directly from the Eshpai family.

The 1994 Flute Concerto is here given in a live recording of its world premiere. It includes some of the haunting Mari folk tunes used in The Circle some 20 years previously. Another element is birdsong caught in the nets of a brusque and dissonant fantasy. The flute though is not called on do unnatural things although its demands on technique seem to be intimidating - both for soloist and orchestra (the very same that recorded the complete Ivan the Terrible music for Nimbus). Shapkin sloughs off the challenges with utmost confidence. The work arrives at heart’s message at 0909 after which the solo part and the orchestra in chase careen, chicane and cartwheel their way through the piece. The concerto ends with the delightful ‘breathing’ of the flute.

As you may gather from the title Songs of the Mountain and Meadow Mari (1983) is a lighter piece than the concerto though still having a strong role for the flute. Here that role is much more calming than in the Concerto. The music touches on the highland romance of the misty mountains of the Tatra, of Szymanowski's Harnasie and of Delius’s high hills. At times the effect is Gaelic (3.47). At 7.40 it briefly becomes more dissonant following Espai’s tendency for stylistic impacts. After this episode the flute returns in peaceful song - a priest’s invocation to peace. This a brief and brilliant piece without the hyper-Hollywood effects of the Concerto for Orchestra.

The Double Bass first appeared in Eshpai’s scores as one of the solo characters in the 1966 Concerto for Orchestra (see Vol. 2). In 1995 he completed a Double Bass Concerto. Unsurprisingly the dissonance of the Flute Concerto of 1992 is also in evidence here. The work gloomily tracks the territory between Bach and Shostakovich. Rifat Komachkov is impressive fully exploiting the deeply resinous woody sound of the double bass. The work ends with strings aglow and the solo singing out in full eloquence. The effect is rather is rather like a supercharged Tallis Fantasia.

Eshpai’s First Symphony (1959) is unusually in bipartirte form: a lento maestoso then an allegro vivace festivo. The recording is in slightly crumbly sound but good enough. The first movement takes the form of a requiem - an expressive meditation, sombre and rising to a gaunt hymn. It is touched with the pomp of the grave and does not escape bombast (6.20). This sober movement occasionally reminded me of Miaskovsky. The second starts with folksy dance material and the textures are as usual with Eshpai extremely inventive - try the chiming episode at 1.40. It rises to a rhapsodic and high rolling massive rush of sound. This is a very colourful score touched with the influence of Shostakovich.
A valuable collection that offers the work that helped make Eshpai’s reputation and three more recent works: two concertos with some modernistic effects and a Mari regional rhapsody related to the very early Symphonic Dances on Mari Themes.

Rob Barnett


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