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Dennis EBERHARD (b. 1943)
Shadow of the Swan: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Prometheus Wept (August 6, August 9, 1945) for Solo Bass and String Orchestra
Halida Dinova (piano)
Piotr Migunov (bass)
St. Petersburg Cappella Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Tchernoushenko
Rec. St. Petersburg Recording Studio, St. Petersburg, 25–27 Nov 2002 DDD

As I was compiling this review I saw the one by Christopher Thomas on this site. He goes into the associations and themes that permeate these two works so I’d refer you there for those. I also find that I share, to a large degree, his responses to both the Concerto and Prometheus Wept.

I agree that the Concerto is a big and powerful work, as befits its subject matter, the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk. The overwhelming chromaticisms of the opening movement and the sinking, suspensory motifs are both evocative and descriptive. Which applies to what I take to be the engine noises, percussive hammering, the baleful horns, piano cadenza and pom poms that all speak of catastrophe as the movement ratchets up the tension. Some of the writing is reminiscent of Penderecki - .of the St Luke Passion, say, a recent recording of which on the same label and led by Antoni Wit I reviewed here and which shows some absorbing influences. By contrast the string gauze in the second movement is all quietude and the solo piano’s occasional pointillist remarks add their own layer of spiritual depth (the booklet speaks of affinities with Arvo Pärt) – against which the later more remonstrating orchestral material battles, ultimately in vain. The finale is clad in quasi-minimalist hue – even though the percussion and stridency remind one of the first movement. The marimba-like ascending scale adds a ghostly texture to the music but there are simply too many competing stylistic affiliations to allow the music to cohere. Rather than start in disaster and reach gradual apotheosis, the listener is left more baffled than moved.

A Russian Orthodox bass chant, taking a text from Revelations, opens the second work, Prometheus Wept subtitled August 6, August 9, 1945. It was written in remembrance this time of those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is a relatively compact, static work, strong on piety, short on musical substance.

The notes, by the composer, set out the polemic of the latter piece and go into some discursive detail about the former. A rather baffling disc, difficult to really get to grips with.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Christopher Thomas

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