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.
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.
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.
extended suite found here is in six movements. I hope that
some day we will be able to hear the whole ballet.
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
see also Feature
on Alla Pavlova's music