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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Andrei Pavlovich PETROV (b.1930)
Russia of Bells (1990) [16.54]
Violin Concerto (1980) [23.20]
Creation of the World - ballet suite (1971) [17.19]
Sergei Stadler (violin)
E Kataev (saxophone) (ballet)
Ensemble of Bell Music/V Lokhansky (Bells)
Boys' Choir of Mikhail Glinka Music School/V Stolnovskih
Academic SO of the LeningradPhilharmonic/Yuri Temirkanov (all pieces)rec. 1990. Grand Hall, Leningrad State Philharmonic.
TALENTS OF RUSSIA RCD26601 [57.23]

AVAILABILITY

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UK fax 0151 491 6688
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Andrei Pavlovich Petrov was born in the then Leningrad (now St Petersburg) on 2 September 1930. The city of his birth, for long a cosmopolitan axis for Eastern Bloc and Western influences has been the scene of provocative inspiration with landscape, painting and literature all contributing to Petrovís music.

After studies at the Rimsky-Korsakov Music College from 1945 to 1949 he continued his musical education at Leningradís Conservatoire and graduated in 1954. He has held various positions of honour including chairman, Leningrad Composers' Union and president of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Society. In 1990 he was invested as People's Artist of the USSR. In addition he has been awarded various other state prizes (1967, 1976 and 1996).

An ambitious composer, his early scores were for orchestra including the tone poem Radda i Loyko (after Maxim Gorky) and the ballet Bereg nadezhdi, 'Shore of Hope'. Radda i Loyko guaranteed Petrov one of his first mentions in ĎSoviet Musicí (publ. Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow) in an article by Lyudmila Polyakova during the early 1960s.

From 1970 to 1985 he was preoccupied with music for the theatre including opera (Peter I and Mayakovsky Begins) and ballet (Pushkin). The Romantic Variations and the concertos of the 1980s are reputedly rich and colourful. The 1990s saw his Christian faith asserting itself through a series of symphonies. His film music treads the line between kitsch and sentiment. It has secured for him a strong domestic reputation although little of his music has travelled outside the Russian Federation; the occasional EMI-Melodiya LP being the isolated exception during the 1960s and 1970s.

Petrov firmly and practically rejects any barrier between popular and classical music. He may be likened to George Lloyd in the United Kingdom though his melodic resource has been of a much tougher and consistent sinew. He has benefited from the support of conductors Eduard Serov, Arvid Yansons, Yevgeny Svetlanov and Yuri Temirkanov as well as the baritone Sergei Leiferkus.

His Pushkin Symphony draws on Alexander Pushkin, Russia's best-loved poet. The symphony is a collage of his poems, history and folk-song. 28 June 1978 saw the premiere of the work in Leningrad at the Oktyabr concert hall. Conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, a constant supporter, directed the cityís Philharmonic Orchestra. Petrov has since then extended the score into a grand ballet staged by Leningrad's Mariinsky Theatre.

The Creation of the World ballet succeeds at another level; that of entertainment juxtaposing jazz, 1960s chance elements, playground songs and a collision between baroque and romantic. This contrasts with the ripely Hollywood romance of the ballet The Shore of Hope leaning right over the giddy edge from Prokofiev to Franz Waxman. The Shostakovich-like grit and grime of The Songs of Our Days assembled in a series of short (none longer than 4 minutes) episodes runs the gamut from shrill belligerence to heroic clamour to quiet resolution.

It is interesting to note Petrovís seeming preference for the creation of structures through short sequences. This cinematographic approach to construction can be found in other composers including Prokofiev (e.g. his opera Semeon Kotko). This may well spring from the composerís long-lived co-working with cinema and TV including, most recently, the music he wrote for the Russian TV serial St Petersburg Secrets [Peterburgskiye tayni]. This is a composer who merits attention. How long must we wait for recordings of his Romantic Variations (1988), Piano Concerto (1989) and his two symphonies: Symphony No.1 On Christian Anthems (1992) and No. 2 The Time of Christ a choral symphony (1995).

The Russia of Bells is a gritty fantasy, full of brilliance throughout the aural spectrum. The bass response, in particular, is gripping. Petrov speaks of the excitement he has always felt for the all too fleeting bell-ringing episode in Boris Godunov. This set of variations is Petrov's free-form extension of the scene. In it he makes free with cantillation, wild and sedate. He celebrates the resonant decay of the carillon shadowed by the Dies Irae, complemented by the sinister blare of the brass, the swing and the impact of the bell clappers. The orchestration is of crystalline clarity accentuated by real bell sounds. The more celebratory sections suggest the monolithic magnificence of The Great Gate of Kiev as well as Britten's Sea Interludes. This is a recording of the work's premiere. The Violin Concerto is comparable with the Barber concerto but veiled in a light mist of dissonance. The Bergian distress of the work coupled with Stadlerís tone which has intensity of a dentistís drill makes this quite overpowering at times. As an example listen at 13.30 to the deeply serious threnodic climax. The last movement is turbulent with spiccato and sparks rather like the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto. Stadler, whose name may be known to you from Olympia transfers of the concertos by Glazunov, Lvov and Tischenko, is closely recorded by the Russian engineers. Petrovís ballet suite The Creation of the World has been the composerís passport to international recognition. Its appearance initially on various Western Melodiya licensed LPs has given him a precarious hold on public awareness. The music moves from frank tributes to Prokofiev (Classical Symphony), to a scorching saxophone solo, to African sounds (complete with snake-sinuous music and bongo drums) to the long sustained climactic Ave, Eva with its generous-hearted big tune curling and continuing with every fresh and succulent turn as if it would never run out of breath. The tune has filmic flavourings (a touch of John Barry here) and even sports a wordless choir. Its leisurely luminous quality may be compared with Silvestrovís Fifth Symphony. The collage of styles links with The Circle by Andrei Eshpai another major ballet score (recorded on Albany).

Petrovís candid eclecticism is engaging and the hope is that there will be further recordings. The breadth of his palette of influences is wide, taking in jazz (rather like Kapustin), musique-concrète, the purity of Bach, the great Russian folksong tradition and a potent Californian taste for melodrama.

Rob Barnett



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