Lazarof was born in
Sofia in 1932 and after early studies
there and at the New Jerusalem Academy
he progressed to study with Petrassi
in Rome (1955-57). University positions
in America followed, Brandeis and UCLA
(where he originally taught French).
The Tableaux (after Kandinsky) for Piano
and Orchestra was commissioned by the
Seattle Symphony and Gerard Schwarz.
Lazarof translated his admiration for
the painter’s work into musical form
in this half hour piece for piano soloist
and a big orchestra. There are nine
Tableaux in all, the first, for solo
piano, elliptical and glinting. The
Tableaux that follow are turbulent picture-scapes
with powerful, sometimes truculent orchestral
interjections (II) or flecked with piano
and celesta exchanges (III), spectral
sonorities and violent outbursts. At
the heart of the work though lies Tableau
VI, with its intense lyrical pull and
also increasingly astringent orchestral
profile. Lazarof writes well for percussion
and gives the section some assault and
battery work (VII) but the piano protagonist
enacts and embodies Kandinskian storm
and reflection with emotive volatility.
The Violin Concerto
(1985-86) is dedicated to the composer’s
son. Lazarof is a prolific composer
of concertos. This one is in three movements,
Aria, Scherzo and Epilogue. There’s
plenty of lyrical catch and release
in the opening movement with its vaguely
Bergian imprint. Lazarof adds lashings
of colour and percussive fillips to
add to the orchestral excitement. The
Scherzo opens with a kind of piano vamp
accompaniment before some airy and mercurial
writing – deft and light.As ever with
Lazarof lightness is soon followed by
some astringent moments and abrupt conjunctive
material – and also plenty of high lying
writing for the agile soloist. The Epilogue
is full of thoughtful writing, from
the strutting agility of the soloist
to the very elliptical end.
The Second Symphony
is a lean, cryptic work that once again
reminds one of Berg. In two movements
there is plenty of provocative writing
and outbursts, unsettled and turbulent.
The second movement is bristly and bustly,
full of oppositional blocks with moments
of reprieve via darkly quiet sections.
The contrasts here are really immense
and immovable, the symphony offering
granitic oppositions as its means of
make a persuasive case for these works
not all of which are immediately ingratiating.
They are in fact programmed in order
of complex difficulty and it’s the Kandinsky
Tableaux that lingers the longest and
most memorably in the mind.