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Alla PAVLOVA (b.1952)
Monolog for violin and string orchestra 2002) [6.12]
Old New York Nostalgia - suite (1998, rev. 2002) [22.11]
Sulamith - ballet suite (2003-2004) [45:34]
Yaroslav Kranikov (violin) (Monolog)
Leonid Makarevich (piano); Andrey Chernishov (percussion); Aleksey Volkov, Michail Poroshin (saxophone); Georgy Pleskatch (trumpet) (Old New York Nostalgia)
Artiom Grinko (trumpet) (Sulamith)
Russian Philharmonia Orchestra/Rossen Milanov
rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company, KULTURA, Moscow, 28 June-3 July 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557674 [73:57]



Alla Pavlova is a Russian composer who has lived in the USA since 1990. She  has left nothing behind, musically speaking. Instead her move appears to have intensified the Slav melancholic vein in her music. What is more Naxos have already given us several discs of her music so it is neither difficult nor an undue expense to come to terms with her inspiration and its results. The other two discs span the four symphonies and these should be considered alongside the Pavlova works recorded for Albany USA.

Monolog is a romantic meditation saturated in Russian sorrow - sweet and damp-eyed if not lachrymose; a light and feathery quality. It momentarily recalls crepuscular string orchestra pieces by Grieg and Sibelius mixed with the romance of Silvestrov. The title Old New York Nostalgia should prepare you for what is to come. This is music that, in affectionate tones, caresses that solitary metropolitan sadness you find in Gershwin, Bernstein and Copland. Alongside that element the trumpet and percussion take the listener through the gamut of skyline jazz, smoggy dawns and smoke-filled jazz lounges. The titles of the six movements sing with the theme of romance in the city. That trumpet soliloquises in a way that recalls the numerous prayerful trumpet solos of Alan Hovhaness. The music is often touching and is certainly accessible. This has been amongst Pavlova’s most successful works. She re-orchestrated the suite in 2002 and added two new movements. The original version can be heard on Albany.

The complete ballet Sulamith was written in 2003 and 2004. Sulamith tells of the love between King Solomon and the lowly servant Sulamith. Once again the trumpet plays a cantorial role amid the steady and plangent tones of the Introduction. This leads into the Ritual Dance of Queen Astis (Solomon’s wife) which carries a thread of anxiety and even Medea-like fury that accelerates as the piece progresses. The Duet between Astis and the King has a forlorn, mildewed quality representing the hopelessness of Astis’s attempt to rekindle the King’s love. This compares with the secretive, quiet and tense ardour of Night in Sulamith’s Room. Strings breathe peacefully much as they do in Monolog but rising in tumescence as the piece proceeds; the flute caresses, the vibraphone adds a confiding ‘speaking’ quality. There is no ferocity in this tender love-making. The final movement is In King Solomon’s Chambers and recounts the death of Sulamith to save Solomon’s life. The music has undoubted and steadily unfolding power. It recalls a hybrid of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, Sibelius’s Rakastava and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. At the close the trumpet solo returns, emotionally distant, singing and gently voicing the tragedy that has been played out in front of us.

The extended suite found here is in six movements. I hope that some day we will be able to hear the whole ballet.

If you have not yet discovered the endearing strength of Pavlova’s tender music-making then you would do well to start here. Monolog is an excellent succinct introduction and the links with popular North American culture in Old New York Nostalgia are not suffocating allowing room for Pavlova’s hallmark tender, often melancholy and usually largo-paced writing to register with due emotional weight. Do try the four symphonies as well. They’re all to be had on two Naxos discs.

Rob Barnett

see also Feature on Alla Pavlova's music


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