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Estonian Record Productions


Fridrich BRUK (b.1937)
Symphony No.3 for orchestra and tenor – The Artist Chagall (2000) [63:59]
Mati Turi (tenor)
Singers of the Estonian National Male Choir RAM
Estonian National Opera Symphony Orchestra/Erkki Palola
rec. Estonia Concert Hall (Talinn), September 2002


Experience Classicsonline

Fridrich Bruk was born in Kharkov in the Ukraine. Though he studied in Leningrad he subsequently moved to Finland in 1974. He has written five symphonies and the central one, subtitled The Artist Chagall, was composed in 2000. There is a long and strenuous role for solo tenor and a less taxing one for choral forces; in this respect it conforms to his symphonic output generally which usually involves either the voice or an expansive role for a solo instrument. The Fifth (2002), sub-titled Juutalaisessa vireessä is purely orchestral in this respect.

Bruk is a thoroughly tonal composer and in his Third Symphony he has written a work that seems to set an analogue in sound to Chagall’s paintings. The first movement bears the title Les tableaux de Vitebsk, the place that so inspired Chagall. The form as noted is tonal and the means of expression a kind of formalised Chasidic one. The clarinet takes a strong soloistic, or oratorical, or vocalised role. There’s great plangency and colour in the writing as well as terse brass blocks and percussive outbursts. Naturally the solo violin also explores the Chasidic elements that are so fundamental a part of the score; pealing bells and worrying percussion attest to a sense of Tsarist shtetl unease. The first movement ends with a rather ominous, slow moving brass-led processional.

There are no texts to allow one to follow the tenor’s powerful line in the second movement but you will hear the initial cry of ‘Mamele’ – Yiddish for ‘little mother’ - and its melancholy unfolding line tells one all one really needs to know about the curve of the music making. There are more extrovert Chasidic episodes then meditative wind solos and then a vocal melismatic line of mourning, cantorial and desolate; this is a Largo of grief, the movement called La mort de Bella. Bella was Chagall’s wife and died of a viral infection in the United States in 1944.

The finale is a Renaissance and it opens with an expansive solo violin line, before a more clean limbed and avuncular central panel comes into focus – an Andantino. The ensuing Con gióia section – from around 17:40 - ushers in a celebratory, rejuvenatory vocal line, one that ends the symphony in affirmation, and in hope.

It would have been good to have had some booklet notes but sometimes it’s best to listen with an open mind, I suppose. Musically there are hints here of Bloch and Weinberg, of Shostakovich and perhaps of Bartók too in places. For those who have sampled the American Milken Archive recordings on Naxos this Estonian performance will appeal to a similar constituency.

Jonathan Woolf


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