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Vadim SALMANOV (1912-1978)
The Four Symphonies

CD1 [57:27]
Symphony No. 1 in D minor (1952) (1 Largo. Allegro [10:58]; 2 Andante non troppo [11:32]; 3 Presto [8:24)
Symphony No. 2 in G major (1959) (1 The Song of the Forest [3:36]; 2 Nature’s Summons [8:58]; 3 At Sunset [7:19]; 4 The Forest Sings [6:36])
CD2 [59:39]
Symphony No. 3 in A minor (1963) (1. Mesto. Allegro Moderato [9:34]; 2 Andante [6:04]; Allegro vivace [4:42]; 4 Andante non troppo [7:43)
Symphony No. 4 in B minor (1972) (1 Moderato [14:57]; 2 Marciale [6:58]; 3 Andante [9:37])
Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonia/Yevgeny Mravinsky
Rec. live Great Hall, Leningrad Philharmonia 20 Mar 1957 (1); 30 Sept 1960 (2); 24 May 1964 (3); 28 Jan 1977 (4); ADD
IM LAB IMLCD073/74 [57:27 + 59:39]

Salmanov Reference

The Russian composer Vadim Nikolayevich Salmanov was born on 4 November 1912 in St. Petersburg and died there on 27 February 1978. After piano studies with his father he took theory lessons from Akimenko then moved to the Leningrad Conservatory where from 1936 until 1941 his compositions lessons were taken with Mikhail Gnessin. He joined the staff of the Conservatory’s composition department in 1947 and remained there in various capacities until his death. Music had not always been the most natural choice for him. He pursued a career in geology up until 1936.

Salmanov's four symphonies are each about thirty minutes long. The four symphonies are represented here by recordings taken from concert performances; in many cases presumably the concert premieres. In each case the symphony was premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky.

The First Symphony: The opening is reminiscent of the music for the Teutonic knights in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky mixed with hushed and etiolated mystery - to return in the second movement - and lyrical inspirations reminiscent of Miaskovsky's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. Its finale has one of those scuttling, conspiratorial tense chases part recalling Bruckner's Romantic but at 00.46 it soon picks up on the cavalry charge élan of Miaskovsky. Here is a symphony not immune from rodomontade (III 2:03) but clearly more in sympathy with people like Boiko in the USSR and George Lloyd in the UK than with true originals like Shostakovich. The sound is about 46 years old but apart from a certain warbly quality is quite acceptable. The echt Russian brass is evident in the trumpets (III 4:56).

Three years later and we get the Second Symphony which opens in plaintive melancholy with flute, clarinet and oboe, chilly if not bleak. The second movement Summons of Nature is packed with fast-darting detail recalling a Prokofiev scherzo ballet movement. Pealing stratospheric violins trade gestures with minatory brass the national identity of which is never in doubt (IV 3:17).

As many years separate the Third and Second symphonies as divide the first two. However Salmanov's four movement Third flirts with a medley of dodecaphony and tonality. The posturing of the first movement is unconvincing but the modest Andante with its sighing dissonances is more substantial fare. There is a scarifying goblins' scherzo in the shape of the allegro vivace. Salmanov is often better with gentle canorial ideas. With a Bergian tinge this lyricism returns for the Andante non troppo finale which ends ominously. The Cold War had perhaps taken its toll. For all that Salmanov was seen as a loyal apparatchik and has been bracketed with Khrennikov this symphony ends without staged heroics and fluttering banners.

His Fourth last symphony came in 1977. It has been dubbed by Salmanov researcher Mark Aranovsky, a ‘farewell symphony’. Salmanov died at the age of 66, one year later but was present at the premiere. Aranovsky speaks of 'its understated beauty, woven from the same delicate colours as the Leningrad sky during a summer sunset.' Across three movements, of which the first is almost as long as the other two put together, Salmanov presents three contrasted portraits. The second movement Marciale is a knockabout romp rife with toytown fanfares and scathing Shostakovichian assaults. It's an enigmatic presence when flanked by what seem to be two musing eclogues alive with touching soloistic gestures from woodwind and solo violin. In the final andante this reflective material is matched up to strivingly impassioned music at times torn by the strife we hear in the first movement of Shostakovich 6. However it is in the cool Miaskovskian elegiac birdsong of the flute at 5:42 that we glimpse what is I think the real Salmanov.

These recordings are far from hi-fi but are of fair to middling broadcast quality given their provenance. If you enjoy exploration there are rewarding works here. Of the four only the Third strikes me as lame and ill-sorted. The Fourth fascinates in its elegiac outer movements; the breathing of the violins at 8:44 in the finale remains a fine inspiration.

It's a pity that the liner-notes tells us so little about Salmanov. While these may be world premiere recordings this is not the first time they have been issued.

Salmanov may have thumped the tub at times but his symphonies were more often rounded with a curve into serenity than a thundering bombastic call-to-arms.

Rob Barnett


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