This is the second
Phoenix disc to look to the music of
Vasks and Mikhail Bronner. The last
disc (Phoenix PHCD 153 also reviewed
here included violin concertos by Arutiunian
(Armenia 88), Vasks Distant
Light and Bronner Heaven's Gates.
Ambartsumian was the leading light
for that disc also.
Phoenix's latest arrival
replaced Arutiunian. with Tchaikovsky,
not Peter Ilyich, not André (remember
him - he was a concert pianist and a
composer!), not Boris but Alexander.
Once again he is no relation of the
famous Tchaikovsky .....
graduated from the Moscow Conservatory
having studied with Tikhon Khrennikov.
His intense Lonely Voice concerto
stands in the triangle between the Walton,
Frankel and Schuman concertos. It moves
from suspenseful lyricism through moments
of plangent atmospheric tension to hammered
out apocalyptic violence and back to
ellipitical Bergian shadowed singing.
This does not sound like a chamber orchestra.
The tortured romantic credentials of
this work are well worth checking out.
is a Muscovite composer who studied
at that city’s Conservatory with Heinrich
Neuhaus and Tikhon Khrennikov, He has
composed extensively and there are three
symphonies, two piano concertos, operas,
ballets (one based on the story of the
Battleship Potemkin), three viola concertos
(one written for Yuri Bashmet) and two
violin concertos amongst many other
pieces. The Double Concerto is part
of a tragic trilogy. To complete the
symmetry the other two components of
the trilogy are concertos: one for violin;
the other for viola. The concerto is
inspired by the irretrievable passing
of childhood - that land of lost content
and by Nikita Mikhailov’s film Several
Days from the Life of Oblomov (after
Turgenev). Unlike the Bronner this work
is in three movements but like Bronner
the language adopted is full of tension
both singing and buzzing; try the manic
Presto. It also has an undeniable
haunted lyricism that seems to sing
under threat and with constant and piercing
pangs of melancholy. The composer ends
the piece most imaginatively with a
slender quiet microtonal slide - a sleep
and a forgetting.
This is very apt as
the final piece is Peteris Vasks’
Musica Dolorosa for string orchestra.
Clearly you will not be buying this
disc for light-hearted amusement because
as the Latvian composer says - ‘this
is my most tragic opus where there is
no optimism, no hope ... only pain’.
As with all three works on this disc
this is serious music concerned with
the grand emotions and in this case
with grave beauty. Musica Dolorosa
is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s
sister and was completed shortly before
her death. The sustained lyrical string
writing carries many original touches
threaded among the constant activity
of a string orchestra at prayer. One
of his hallmarks are those microtonal
swervings and slidings.
The notes are good
even if they still fail to provide the
date and country of birth for Bronner.
Serious Baltic and
Russian music that is warmly recorded,
imagined and played. Challenging but