Pavlova trained as a composer and musicologist in what was the
Soviet Union and moved to New York in 1990. She seems to have
soaked up some Americana since then, but her music retains a
heavy Russian accent.
CD, the second release in Naxos’ ongoing series dedicated to
Pavlova’s output, comprises the composer’s second and fourth
Second Symphony appears here in its 2002 revision. Dedicated
to her husband, it was Pavlova’s first composition for full
orchestra. She was dissatisfied with the work in its initial
form and, after its first recording (on Albany), made changes
to some of the thematic material and the orchestration. Having
not heard the original version, I cannot make any comparisons,
but I can say that there is nothing wrong with the revised orchestration.
Pavlova has a good command of the orchestra and its colours.
Her writing for strings, horn and upper woodwinds is particularly
symphony is entitled For the New Millennium and it is
said by the composer to explore the idea “of man and his relation
to the Universe on the threshold of the new millennium”.
first movement is intended as a depiction of “man’s subjective
perception of the Universe” and features some lovely writing
for solo violin. The opening is gentle and melancholy, with
sighing phrases in the upper voices of the orchestra above steady
chords from the lower strings. As the movement increases in
volume and pace towards the first climax (around four minutes
in), the repeated motif in the bass and the swooping upper woodwinds
hint at John Adams.
brief second movement is described by the composer as a “Devil’s
Dance” and sounds like the march of cartoonish villains. The
third movement represents “Light and Love”. Had the liner not
told me this, I would have thought it depicted someone sailing
away dolefully from home and family. You can hear the boat
rocking. Long-breathed signing phrases from the lower stings
support a theme played by massed violins that could have been
written by Khachaturian in one of his romantic moods. Pavlova
says in the liner notes that she was revising the last few pages
of this movement on 11 September 2002, and the significance
of the date caused her to give this movement a more “tragic”
ending than it had in its previous incarnation. I am not sure
that the close of the third movement sounds “tragic” - perhaps
“wistful” would be more apt. Wistful or tragic, the movement
ends quietly and the finale opens just as quietly. Again phrases
are long-breathed and another gorgeous melody takes flight a
few minutes in. Unfortunately, the movement is a little too
long for its material and the last few minutes seem to meander
towards the symphony’s (again) quiet conclusion.
must confess that the symphony’s title and the descriptions
of each movement aim for a profundity that my ears cannot make
out in the music. I was not deeply moved or challenged by this
piece, but it is unfailingly lovely and easy to listen to.
Fourth Symphony is recognisably from the pen of the same
composer. Written as a single extended movement, it is essentially
a tone poem, with colourful involvement from the organ and solo
violin. Long organ chords and chiming bells give this piece
a sense of the mystical, which ties in with its inspiration,
the painting “The Path to Shambala” by Nicholas Roerich (which
appears on the album cover). There is more than a whiff of
Rachmaninov’s tone poems about this piece. Again, the composer’s
stated aims in this symphony are lofty and spiritual, but to
me it just sounds nice.
performances are creditable. Fedoseyev seems to be in tune
with the composer’s intentions and the orchestra plays with
romantic sweep, notwithstanding occasional untidiness. The
recording has enough bloom for the long string phrases and although
the timpani sound murky, there is nothing seriously wrong with
of these symphonies contain some lovely music and lush orchestration.
The blurb on the back cover of this disc says that Pavlova has
written for film, and there is certainly something “filmic”
in her style. While they are not masterpieces, these symphonies
are enjoyable and, at the Naxos price, can be recommended to
lovers of the neo-romantic.