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.
see also Reviews
by Rob Barnett and Dan