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Henri LAZAROF (b 1932)
Tableaux (after Kandinsky) for Piano and Orchestra
Violin Concerto (1985-86)
Symphony No. 2 (1990)
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Yukiko Kamei (violin)
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
Recorded at the Seattle Centre Opera House, January 1990 and January-April 1992
NAXOS 8.559159 [72.11]


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 expression.

Excellent performances 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.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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