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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)
Symphonietta for string orchestra (1953) [20.56]
Theme and Eight Variations (1984) [17.21]
Mikhail KOLLONTAI (b.1952)

Viola Concerto (1980) [35.05]
Yuri Bashmet (viola) (Kollontai)
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev
rec. 1983 (Kollontai), 1986 (Tchaikovsky), Feb 1978 (Boris Tchaikovsky) ADD
Recordings from Russian State Foundation of Radio and Television
RELIEF CR991064[72.36]

Boris Tchaikovsky Society:

If it is played by Yuri Bashmet the chances are that it will be worth your listening time. This Relief CD showcases the very obscure Viola Concerto by composer-pianist Mikhail Yermolayev (who goes under the name Mikhail Kollontai) alongside two concert works by Boris Tchaikovsky. This is evidently a serious piece of creative work running symphonic proportions. It is strenuous, determined and heatedly rhapsodic and is not afraid of a sunny cantabile (Adagio - 2.34 onwards; tr. 3) even if it does sour into disenchantment. Bashmet carries the last element with something approaching vehement belligerence. The music is not difficult to come to terms with. It lies within the coordinates established by Walton (Violin Concerto and Viola Concerto), RVW (Lark Ascending), Bloch (Schelomo), Bartók (Second Violin Concerto), Barber (Violin Concerto) and Rózsa (Violin Concerto). The work follows a not untypical pattern for such concertos - slow-fast-slow (Moeran, Delius, Walton). The central Allegro ruthlessly skips and rushes with syncopated material but ends in a sly dialogue between piano and viola. The work’s coherence is emphasised by the sharing of melodic material across the three movements.

Boris Tchaikovsky’s Sinfonietta (or Symphonietta) for String Orchestra is from 1953. Like the Clarinet Concerto (1957) on the Northern Flowers label the writing for string orchestra embraces a long singing Finzian approach. There are moments when you could swear you are hearing the string writing from Dies Natalis (tr.4). Prokofiev is the background voice in the rondel-style Valse second movement. The Adagio (Variations) are questioningly searching and heartfelt - not tragic but a serious contemplation with beauty the subject matter. The final Rondo is mercurial with brightness, cheerful and muscular; in fact not that distant from the march from the Wirén Serenade or the Tippett Concerto for Double String Orchestra. That muscularity must have pleased the anti-formalists but it still sounds well.

The Theme and Variations is for full orchestra and is set down here in a single track. Fedoseyev and his orchestra have known this piece since its early days. It was a commission of the Dresden Staatskapelle for Dresden’s 425th anniversary celebration. Out of timorous wisps and spectral pizzicati ideas and melodic gestures float free. It is not at all as Webernian as this description might suggest. There is more acrid and buzz-saw material in the veins of this piece than you find in the almost honeyed Sinfonietta. The chatter sweetens with woodwind and celesta at 8.30 onwards and the chaffing is lent emphasis and sharp punctuation by the choir of French Horns. After this Tchaikovsky resorts very briefly to some pecked and off-beat stabbing chords before returning to an inward communing. This is the most challenging piece on the disc.

Will satisfy the curiosity of those wanting to chart the progress of Soviet orchestral music. Both the Kollontai and the Boris Tchaikovsky Sinfonietta make an immediate and attractive impression.

Rob Barnett


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