cohort of discs for Angelok1 has met
with a pretty mixed reception. He has
concentrated on the late-romantic mainstream,
an area where the competition is murderous.
Much more valuably he here opens casements
on Ukrainian composers of the 20th century.
This sphere was explored by the late-lamented
Olympia label. Now Angelok1 tantalise
us by calling this 'Set One'; implying
there will be at least a second.
This is a stimulating
collection recorded by a Ukrainian orchestra
not of the top flight nor is it a luxury
item. That said, the performances burn
with enthusiasm and commitment.
A Second World War
veteran, Polsky was born in the
Cherkassy region and the wild clarinet
caprice at 5.56 reflects this. He was
a pupil of Klebanov at the Kharkov Conservatory.
The blandly titled ‘Overture’ is gleeful,
replete with high spirits, traditional
in style echoing Korngold at one point,
Kabalevsky at another, Khachaturyan
at the next - a jeu d'esprit. It is
rather like one of Rostislav Boiko's
folk rhapsodies or perhaps more familiarly
one of Enescu's nationalistic display
The folk voices heard
in the Polsky carry over into the joyous
Domra Concerto by Podgorny. The
domra (a mandolin-like instrument) is
as much the instrument of the Ukraine
as the harp is the instrument of Wales
or the fiddle of the Appalachian highlands.
Podgorny graduated in Kharkov in 1946
and lectures at Kharkov's Institute
of Arts. His concerto is lively, melodic,
full of vigour, not in the least academic.
Not so much a guitar in Aranjuez
but a balalaika in Kharkov. It certainly
radiates soulful Slav melancholy alongside
Bach-like figuration. The orchestra
is used fastidiously.
We are not told anything
about Mamontov. His Concert
Polonaise has that swooning East
European atmosphere - sounding, to these
untutored ears, rather Hungarian. This
is mixed with a touch of bombast and
the elder statesman in this company.
He was a pupil of Bogatirev (who completed
‘Tchaikovsky's Seventh Symphony’). He
has held several prestigious posts within
the one-time USSR musical establishment
and contributed to the Ukrainian national
anthem. His five movement Suite No.
2 is a gaunt piece with the acerbic
bite and angularity of Rawsthorne's
and Schuman's writing for strings. The
pell-mell devilish Presto with
prominent role for solo violin is specially
memorable. His Four Preludes and
Fugues for orchestra are more
ingratiating and show an endearingly
relaxed approach. The full orchestra
is used inventively within traditional
folk patterns heard in the works of
Balakirev filtered through a Prokofiev-like
sensibility. The first is rather like
Copland's Tender Land while the
second breaks the spell with its circus-raucous
uproar. The third feels ramshackle but
has some powerfully atmospheric moments
as at 3:10. The fourth occasionally
recalls the suite and makes space for
a Stravinskian orchestral piano.
a graduate of the Lvov Conservatory.
His sentimental Elegie has its
mood underlined by Ostrovsky's classically
Russian watery vibrato. Think in terms
of early Richard Rodney Bennett film
born in the Donetsk region. He has a
special interest in folk instruments
and has conducted folk ensembles as
well as conventional orchestras. His
Youth Overture is a diverting
piece without being at all memorable
- it is from the brash and bash tradition
of the concert overtures of Kabalevsky
Only two composers
are represented on the second disc.
born in Khoroshevo. His Kursk Karagody
is another folksy offering complete
with accordion ‘flight’. Bracket it
with Polsky's overture but once again
with Hungarian festive echoes (Kodaly's
Peacock and Galanta) and
recalling a certain famous theme used
in Tchaikobvsky's Fourth Symphony and
Balakirev's Russian overture. It is
an engagingly varied piece conjuring
warm evenings through an inebriating
golden haze. Once again the accordion
appears towards the end.
the lion's share of the second disc
with just over an hour's playing time
dedicated to three of his works. His
Kupalo is in the same
mould as the Polsky and Gaydenko with
more of an anarchistic Villa-Lobos volatility.
The two movement Chamber Symphony
No. 2 is a miniature concerto for
violin and orchestra. This is explosive,
febrile, motoric, impassioned. The admirably
firm and full playing of Bogodar Kotorovich
meets the concerto on its own terms.
It's a quirky decision to call it a
Chamber Symphony. It looks, feels
and sounds like a violin concerto ...
close to Bartok's Second Concerto. The
second movement has this contented crepuscular
feeling - some of the sweetest music
in the set which becomes increasingly
sinister and imperious. It then fades
into a whispering world of Bartókian
insect sounds and warm resignation.
The four Choreographic
Scenes from the Zaporozhtsy are
given the titles: Opening Scenes;
The Furies; Mysteries and Illuminations
and Triumphs and Finale.
After the mercurial Opening Scenes
come the ominous Furies music
which I associate with Prokofiev 's
Teutonic nights in Nevsky here
delivered with a remorseless crunch.
In the Finale glare and gaudy
colours are patent as well as a dollop
of wild pagan brass. This is melodramatic
stuff with some memorable music along
The documentation lacks
dates for each of the works recorded.
We are given close the bare minimum
of information. Some details about the
composers' other works would have been
a favour to them and to us. I hope this
will be put right in later sets. Similarly
there was no sign of dates or locations
for the recording sessions. I am guessing
that they are recentish Ukrainian Radio
There are no impressive
revelatory experiences here but fans
of conservatively-inclined nationalistic
music need look no further. It's all
pretty unassuming stuff except the much
more serious and successful chamber
symphony by Gubarenko. In fact, of all
the composers here, he stands tall for
his imagination and restless language.
He is no revolutionary but that does
not stop his music being well worth
encountering. Klebanov also stands out
for his flirtation with a more modernistic
style. Even so, his approach in one
of the two works (the suite) will represent
no western listener's Ultima Thule.
If you are looking amongst Ukrainian
composers for a highly individual voice
and a challenge then try Valentin Silvestrov.
His Fifth Symphony is not to be missed.
Let's have more from
the Ukraine, please. We could do with
some major symphonies and concertos
next time ...