As I have recounted previously, the door to appreciation of the music of the Russian composer Alexander Lokshin was opened for me by the Third Symphony. It was a 1980 broadcast of this work for baritone, choir and orchestra by the BBCSO conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. With every Lokshin release I keep hoping that the Third Symphony will appear. Perhaps Rozhdestvensky or the baritone Stephen Roberts has a good quality recording of that remarkable broadcast that could be prepared for release. I wonder.
No symphonies on the disc under review. Instead we have three works for soprano and orchestra and a symphonic suite for orchestra with another for violin and orchestra. For what it is worth I find Lokshin a composer satisfyingly good to engage with. I revere Weinberg but very different composers like, Boiko, Shaporin and Lokshin are often more instantly captivating. The pieces here range over 45 years. Les Fleurs du Mal
is the earliest here - written for his graduation. His Baudelaire settings in Russian are, grand, rhetorical, triumphant, awesome, urgent and dramatic. There is something surreal about these settings which will appeal to anyone who enjoys the orchestral songs of Szymanowski and Czeslaw Marek (1891-1985). The final song in the triptych, Tristesse de la Lune
ends undemonstratively in a quiet shiver into silence as the infernal clockwork loses its last sprung tension.
The premiere of the Hungarian Fantasy
was given by Julian Sitkovetsky. It is written in an approachable and slightly showy idiom. It reminded me a little of a similar piece (Hungarian Melodies
and Dances on Mari Themes
) written by another Soviet era composer, Andrei Eshpai (b. 1925). Wolfgang Redik spins the solo line most beautifully with an understated tremble in his tone adding to the passion.
The Art of Poetry
is from 1981 and sets the poem by Nikolai Zabolotsky - regarded as standing in the Futurist tradition. The style here is chillier and with dissonance accommodated alongside an ecstatic air. Sinfonietta No. 2
is also for soprano and chamber orchestra. It forms a companion to Sinfonietta No. 1
for chamber orchestra and tenor. Here the poetry is by Fyodor Sologub. The work was premiered in 1988 after Lokshin's death. It is by turns chilly, petulant, intimate, urgent and febrile. It ends in hesitancy and a sense of awe.
In the Jungle
is a seven movement symphonic suite. It uses the music he wrote for the 1960 film of the same name by Alexander Zgundi which is based on Kipling's Jungle book
. Kipling was seen by the Soviets as a relic of Empire and therefore condemned. Subtler and later themes in Kipling's writings counted for nothing. Even so, ten years after the film Lokshin turned to Kipling again for his astonishing Third Symphony which set various Kipling poems including Danny Deever.
It has a massed darkling power that has to be heard to be understood. The seven movements of the suite encompass approachable music with an original tang. The Introduction
is serene and impressionistic which contrasts with the entertaining Shostakovich-style capering and jazzy-Gallic delights of Games of the Monkeys
and The Birds
. The Jungle
with its solo woodwind, saxophone and clarinet lines is reminiscent of the Debussy Rhapsodies
. The serene and moonlit The Night
is all trembling strings and aureate quiet French Horn; takes us back to the Introduction
. The Drive Hunt
has a remorseless mechanical drive. The finale - Round-U
p - is flighty and edgy. It ends regally with just the slightest hint of bombast.
All credit to Michel Swierczewski who has done so much for Lokshin and indeed for a very different composer Méhul (Nimbus). I hope that there are many more Lokshin volumes and that we will not have to wait another five years before the next issue.
The exemplary notes are by Josef Beheimb.
Some surprising things here and many things that, to some, will seem surprisingly easy to like. Lokshin is like that and we need to hear far more of him. Please will someone advance the Third Symphony up the queue. The best outcome would be the issue of the 1980s BBC broadcast tape if it survives in anyone's hands.
This disc now joins two earlier Lokshin volumes on Bis.
Thus - Lokshin works over a 45 year period from expressionist symbolism to a measure of challenging dissonance.
A Lokshin Miscellany:-
Sym 4 BIS-CD-1156
Syms 5 9 11 BIS CD 1456
Not reviewed here.
Syms 7 10 Laurel