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Alla PAVLOVA (b. 1952)
Symphony No.5 (2006) [47:23] (1.Adagio-Vivace [9:57]; 2.Adagio [7:44]; 3 Adagio-Vivace [12:55]; 4.Largo [9:55]; 5. Vivace [6:52])
Elegy for Piano and String Orchestra (1988)* [4:41]
Mikhail Shestakov (violin)
Andrei Korobeinikov (piano)*,
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Ziva
rec. Studio 5 of the Russian State TV & Radio Company Kultura, Moscow, 18-21 June 2006.
NAXOS 8.570369 [52:04]


Unlike her other symphonies Alla Pavlova’s latest symphony (her fifth) is lighter and scored principally for strings with much less percussion and little brass. However, like her symphonies 2 and 4, which I reviewed in 2003, it is an extremely emotionally-charged piece, full of longing and sadness. The composer’s notes state that the first movement expresses her feelings about life. I would say that the entire symphony does this. It has very close parallels to her First Symphony which expresses Pavlova’s sadness at discovering, on a return visit to Russia after several years in the USA, that the Russia in which she had grown up no longer existed; the old certainties were gone and the future looked full of anxiety brought on by uncertainty.

Against this background a feeling of nostalgia is perfectly understandable but I fear it is holding back her development as a composer. This nostalgia appears to be a motive force that prevents her from drawing on other influences to inspire her compositions. She has undoubted talent and the fact that she writes in a romantic way is no bad thing – for me at least. However I feel that the music fails to get anywhere beyond a statement – or, in this case a restatement - of her feelings already expressed in her first symphony.

As I pointed out in an earlier review in relation to her third symphony the Fifth has a filmic sound and sweep and its themes have more than a passing resemblance to themes found in Maurice Jarre’s music for Dr Zhivago. The music is pleasant despite its sad overtones but what is lacking is a development which contrasts those feelings with some other more powerful themes and a feeling of resolution at the end. Perhaps after writing five symphonies it is time for her to take stock and see a way beyond the past. I find her music sumptuous and emotionally rewarding and I hope she continues to write - she will of course - composers are driven fortunately for us all - but that she finds new musical furrows to plough.

The short Elegy for Piano and Orchestra again is an emotional piece depicting a tragic love story in which Michael Healy defied the Georgia State Laws by marrying his black slave. It was composed for the main theme of the 1998 film “The American Healys”. As stated above Pavlova writes music that describes tragedy well and the fact that it was written for a film serves to underscore my point about the filmic character of her writing.

The orchestra (the renamed Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra) and soloists serve Pavlova’s music well with a reading that captures her feelings in a highly accurate and flowing way. 

Steve Arloff

see also Reviews by Rob Barnett and Dan Morgan




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