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Andrei ESHPAI (1925-) vol. 2
Concerto for Orchestra with Solo Trumpet, Piano, Vibraphone and Double Bass (1966) [13.22]

Anatoly Maksimenko (trumpet)
Piotr Meshaninov (piano)
Boris Stepanov (vibraphone)
Rodion Azarhin (double bass)
USSR State Large Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
Moscow 1974
Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra (1972) [16.13]

Andrei Eshpai (piano)
USSR State Large Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
Grand Hall, Moscow Conservatory, 18 Sept 1972, premiere. mono
Symphony No. 7 (1992) [33.19]

USSR State Large Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
Grand Hall, Moscow Conservatory, 30 Jan 1992, premiere

Andrei Eshpai was born on 15 May 1925 in the city of Kozmodemynsk on the Volga River in the autonomous republic of Mari of the RSFSR. His father, Yakov Andreevich Eshpai (1890-1963), was one of Mari's first professional composers. He was also a choral conductor, folklorist and educator. He composed the first Mari instrumental works, collected the folksongs of his region, and for many years was on the faculty of the Mari National Institute of Language, Literature and History in Ioshkar-Ola (the capital of the Mari Republic). With this background it is no wonder that Eshpai went on after studies with Miaskovsky not just to eminence but to a position of some affection among listeners in the know.

The phantasmagorical Concerto for Orchestra is at first a sort of ‘Rhapsody in glowing Red’ (rather than Blue). Hyper-active textures, febrile activity and blazing jazziness are its hallmarks. The effect can be summarised as Shostakovich's Preludes and Second Piano Concerto meet William Schuman meets Rite of Spring meets Bernstein's Candide. The jazziness suggests acquaintance with the works of Nikolai Kapustin whose piano concertos we also need to hear. After hectic rushing action (which is to return in the last five minutes of this succinct work) you can relax into a great lush bed of healing string sound at 3.45. It is here that the jazz-muted trumpet sings a querulous melody somewhere between Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Borodin's steppes. The double bass sidles unapologetically onto the scene and yearns along to the same theme. It is much to Rodion Azarhin's credit that he makes such a touching contribution (7.37). The wide-striding brass, strings and percussion and blaring triumph of the finale is gloriously enjoyable. It is like a cross between Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances and Gershwin.

The Second Piano Concerto is in three short movements is aggressive and full of impact and fire chased rhythmic action. The level of dissonance is high in comparison to the Concerto for Orchestra. While the symphony and the Concerto for Orchestra are in stereo this is in mono - vivid and gaudily lit.

The Seventh Symphony (I believe that it is the latest) emerges from a sour malcontented dissonance soon embracing a hushed lyricism warmed by consolation. There are no popular culture invasions here unlike The Circle. The Symphony is a serious-minded and extremely concentrated piece. At 8.30 meditation is cast aside and a vexed irritable and gritty velocity bubbles to the surface. At 13.00 the music settles back into quietude with vibraphone and xylophone colouring the scenery. A heroic determination empowers the swaying power of the craggy brass line running strongly from 18.10 onwards. I find it intriguing that the contemporaneous concertos for Flute and Double Bass are much more dissonant than this work. The Symphony is much closer to Rubbra and Boiko than to the wilder shores of Krennikhov or Vainberg. This is a very fine work indeed being wonderfully sustained across 33 minutes. Highly recommended. The conductor as for the other two works on this disc is Yevgeny Svetlanov. While the other two works come from LP-era recordings this one is quite new.

If you like driven and neon dramatic music this is for you. Into the bargain you get recordings of two world premiere live events.

Rob Barnett


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