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.
collection is not quite what the title
connotes. Yes there are three chamber
music pieces but there are also a baker’s
dozen of songs; half of them from Khrennikov’s
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
The remaining six
theatrical songs take us back to
solo voice and piano. The first three
are melodic, soulful, operatic, dignified
and grand – typically Russian. They
receive fine performances from Eugenia
Segeniuk but Leonid Boldin in his three
songs (trs. 21-23) is prone to wobble.
Boldin’s 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 London’s
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 Khrennikov’s output.
The chamber music and the Nekrasov Songs
are sure to impress and win him new
friends. Time for the West’s choral
directors to look in Khrennikov’s direction.
see also Piano