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Igor RAYKHELSON (b. 1961)
Little Symphony for Strings in G minor (2005) [18:27]; Reflections for Violin, Viola and Strings (2003) [9:53] Adagio for Viola and Strings (2002) [5:58]; Jazz Suite for Viola, Saxophone and Orchestra (1989) [31:38]
Yuri Bashmet (viola, conductor); Elena Revich (violin); Igor Butman (saxophone); Igor Raykhelson (piano); Yuro Golubev (double bass); Eduard Zizak (drums); Moscow Soloists
rec. 12 January 2007 (Little Symphony); 7 July 2005 (Reflections, Adagio); 20 June 2000 (Jazz Suite); Mosfilm Studios, Moscow. DDD
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0055 [66:58]

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Born in Leningrad in 1961, Igor Raykhelson studied as a pianist before moving to New York in 1979. He has pursued a varied and successful career as a concert pianist, playing both jazz and classical repertoire. This is the first in a series of discs of his compositions, many of which were inspired by violist Yuri Bashmet.

His style, as one would perhaps expect, is a combination of gritty Russian modernism, tempered with American charm. There are resonances of Schnittke and Shostakovich, but with a strong jazz element. He states in the sleeve-notes that melody is his main focus, and there is certainly a sense of that in his music.

The Little Symphony is a four movement work and essentially a classical piece. It is lightweight; emotionally touching but refreshing. I particularly liked the harmonies of the introduction of the fourth movement. It has a jovial feel and could easily have been written for a film. There are some wonderful quotations in the finale which add a further hint of amusement.

Reflections, for violin, viola and strings, has an introspective opening, with the solo lines in conversation, supported by string orchestra. There are some beautiful moments, well played. A tango takes over, and once again it is easy to imagine a film score. There are some quotes - I spotted some Schubert - and a resonance with Schnittke in the writing of the solo lines. At the point where the repetitive (although charming) bass line started to become too much, the mood returned to that of the beginning.

The Adagio for viola and strings is a beautiful work, with a strong sense of emotion. Bashmet plays with richness of tone and musical elegance. Raykhelson’s harmonic language combines the world of film - the opening bars could easily have come from a John Williams soundtrack - with more complex modernism and a hint of jazz. The opening phrase is transposed and repeated over different harmonic contexts to feel constantly different, and once again, a waltz theme takes over for a brief moment, which is angular and poised. This is a short movement, which repeats the opening motif at the end.

The remaining work on the disc is the seven movement jazz suite. The opening piano solo, performed here by the composer, is a welcome change from the by now slightly saccharine string sound of the rest of the disc. Although still essentially ‘crossover’, the jazz influence of Raykhelson’s style takes over here, with some lovely turns of phrase and stylistic elements. The musical movement is perhaps a little disjunct here; there are well-executed but all too brief interludes in the first movement for different solo instruments, almost giving the impression of looking through different windows and catching a glimpse of what is going on inside. The second movement is an extended solo for saxophone and is ‘proper’ jazz - although I wonder how much of an improvisational element there is here. This fades out to an interruption by the piano, strings and drums, again feeling as if another work has taken over. The third movement, Take Three, is an easy-listening waltz which feels more successful, and would work well on its own. Obviously inspired by Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, the highlight of this movement, for me, was the double bass solo [2:40]. The fourth movement brings to mind Shostakovich, particularly in its opening solo. The fifth movement, Swing, is altogether freer and is closer to a jazz standard than classical; this is another successful movement which flows well. The following Consolation is a complete contrast, back to the classical string orchestra world, with a hint of jazz still present. The final movement is the most extended of the set, and has its own energy. The solo instruments (double bass, saxophone, viola and piano) are each given opportunities to shine and carry the momentum throughout the movement. The playing is consistently good and suits the music.

This was an interesting disc, with some lovely moments. As a self-confessed contemporary music junkie, my tastes are perhaps a little too ‘hardcore’ to make me fall in love with this music, but it is nevertheless worthy of exploration.

Carla Rees

 

 

 

 


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