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Tikhon KHRENNIKOV (b. 1913)
Chamber Music

String Quartet No. 1 Op. 33 (1988) [8:18]
Cello Sonata Op. 34 (1989) [13:31]
Three Pieces for violin and piano op. 26 (1983) [8:16]
Piano Concerto No. 4 op. 37 (1991) [10:26]
Three Poems on Nekrasovís Rhymes (1971): Before Rain; Unharvested Field; Watching the war horrors [5:59]
Three Poems on Nekrasovís Rhymes op. 36 (1990): Prayer; Days Pass; Hymn [4:58]
Songs from theatrical productions: The Ballade from the play Quixote; Bring Flowers for Sweethearts from Dorothea; A Gypsy Song from Dorothea; Like a nightingale of a rose from Much ado about nothing; The night is slightly swaying leaves from Much Ado About Nothing; A Song of Drunks from Much Ado About Nothing [23:09]
Prokofiev String Quartet; Kirill Rodin (cello); Anatoly Sheludyakov (piano); Igor Oistrakh (violin); Natalia Zertsalova (piano); Anatoly Sheludyakov (piano), ARKO Chamber Orchestra/Levon Ambartsumian; Tchaikovsky Chamber Choir of the Moscow Conservatoire/Boris Tevlin; Eugenia Segeniuk (alto); Alla Osipenko (piano); Leonid Boldin (bass); Ekaterina Ganelina (piano)
rec. 1970s-2000s, Moscow. ADD; DDD

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The Kapelmeister series of recordings of the music of Khrennikov takes in the film music (soon to be released) as well as CDs of the three symphonies and the three piano concertos.

This miscellaneous collection is not quite what the title connotes. Yes there are three chamber music pieces but there are also a bakerís dozen of songs; half of them from Khrennikovís music theatre works.

The chamber music is surprising. The succinct String Quartet No. 1 is fresh, astonishingly accessible and conservative. It is rather as if Smetana had time-travelled to 20th century Russia. The three movements are deeply romantic, serene and almost Schubertian in their radiance. The music is laid out in lucid transparency and balance. The finale is a sheer delight with some deliciously variegated pizzicato. The Cello Sonata is almost salon-casual, like a mediation between Glazunov and Prokofiev in his most ingratiating and florid style. This is warmly cocooned and romantic stuff. It ends with a cheerful rhythmically well-defined Dance. The sweet-toned Igor Oistrakh then joins Zertsalova for a skittering and militaristically optimistic Dithyramb, a moonstruck Intermezzo with a drop-out at 00.42 and a music-hall absurdist Dance.

The two movement Fourth Piano Concerto is pointedly exuberant and positive. The first movement ends memorably with glassy bell sounds reminiscent of the infernal clockwork at the end of Shostakovich 15. For me it nevertheless remains the least satisfactory of the four concertos although it has some remarkable moments. The six Nekrasov Songs are for mixed a capella choir. The recording is affirmative apart from some very obvious engineering fidgeting with levels in the first song. This is smooth and romantic singing with plenty of bloom and fruit in the beautifully integrated voices. Watching the War Horrors (tr.14) and Hymn (tr. 17) reek of rallies, marches, propaganda and angry exhortation but if we can take such works from Vaughan Williams, Copland and others why not from Khrennikov. The singing throughout the six songs is nothing short of gorgeous if only the engineers could resist the temptation to pull back on the controls. Set it at the correct level and leave it!

The remaining six theatrical songs take us back to solo voice and piano. The first three are melodic, soulful, operatic, dignified and grand Ė typically Russian. They receive fine performances from Eugenia Segeniuk but Leonid Boldin in his three songs (trs. 21-23) is prone to wobble. Boldinís allocation is clearly drawn from the long populist tradition of musicals in the USSR. One of these days there will be a revival in this repertoire after people have become tired of picking over the annals of Broadway and Londonís theatre-land. The last song is redolent of the more caricatured Yiddish music-theatre songs featured in the Naxos Milken series with broad lolling-eyed humour. In any event the audience loved it.

An often startling cross-section of Khrennikovís output. The chamber music and the Nekrasov Songs are sure to impress and win him new friends. Time for the Westís choral directors to look in Khrennikovís direction.

Rob Barnett


see also Piano Concertos 1-3


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