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Larry SITSKY (b. 1934)
Concerto for Violin, Orchestra and Female Voices (No 1) Mysterium Cosmographicum (1972) [36:21]
Violin Concerto No.2 – Gurdjieff (c.1982) [22:53]
Violin Concerto No. 3 I Ching; The Eight Kua (Trigrams) (1987)
Jan Sedivka (violin)
Female Voices from the Tasmanian Opera Company Chorus and The Lyric Singers
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Vanco Cavdarski (No. 1) Omri Hadari (No.2) Christopher Lyndon-Gee (No. 3)
rec. Hobart, 1974 (No. 1, 2) 1992 (No. 3)
ABC CLASSICS 476 5252 [59:14 + 36:31]

Larry Sitsky has dedicated his Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 to Jan Sedivka, a good friend.
The first in 1972 takes Kepler's Mysterium Cosmographicum as its sub-title and poetic force. The musical material is derived from Busoni's Faust - taking chordal progressions and other material - and is cast in five movements lasting thirty-six minutes. Doubtless Sitsky's immersion in Busoni's music, which does lend an impressionistic tint to it, in part derives from his studies with Busoni's great pupil and propagandist, Egon Petri. The Concerto opens with an elusively complex violin cadenza, which forms the introduction. Sitsky's scoring should be noted, as the violins and violas don't make their appearance until towards the end of the work. Sitsky employs a battery of percussion at climactic moments and some driving lower string writing; the texture can also be eruptive and violent but there is also real lyrical expression here, albeit one with a keen edge to it. The central movement is slow and glinting (Harmonicus is the title Sitsky gives to it) with shafts of light flecking the score. In the final panel the chorus sings the titles of each movement before a return to the opening material via the agency of the soloist.
The second concerto bears the subtitle of its inspiration – the mystic and occultist Gurdjieff, whose interest in Central Asian music is an enthusiasm shared by the composer. It’s cast in seven movements, all short, the whole concerto lasting just under twenty-three minutes. It’s lightly but colourfully scored with the composer utilising varieties of percussion for telling effect. The violin is the orator, debater and reflective interlocutor, now assertive, now passive. The most intense sense of mystic concentration comes with the Dolce opening. Later on the violin scurries over percussion and high wind and later still a remarkable Allegretto sees a noble brass melody unfold with stately Asiatic steadiness, the violin joining with its obbligato and deferential commentary.  Sitsky is also clear in his evocation of antique-sounding melodies that have a sense of timelessness. 
The Third Concerto (1987) is much more gently scored than the First and was inspired by the I Ching. Thus the work is divided into eight sections - Water, Wind, Mountain and so on - and all are quite short, unified by the all-embracing theme. Sitsky, who was born in China but left when he was sixteen, attempts here to evoke the sound of Chinese music but not to replicate it; his approach is mystical and spiritual. Technically he makes use of the so-called Chinese string portamento with accompanying percussive support. Rhythmically there is plenty of dance material - as in the second movement Wind, a dance that is skittish and accompanied by a truly impressive Chinese brass section. There is an eternal horizon feel to Mountain and a brassy enveloping in the nocturnal Mist - that picks up the brass motif from Wind. Sitsky evokes these elements of Chinese music with great sensitivity and timbral and rhythmic intricacy. I particularly enjoyed the propulsively percussive writing in Heaven, a moto perpetuo, and the contemplative and elliptical Fire. Fittingly Earth explores the registral depth of the bass and the height of the flute in its encompassing wholeness.
Throughout, Sedivka is a protagonist and interweaver of distinction; he mediates between Sitsky's elevated vision and the violin's technical realities with perfect judgement. The recordings sound very well indeed and the notes are not too florid; just right, in fact.
The First and Third concertos were previously on Tall Poppies TP124 (see review).
Jonathan Woolf



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