Otar TAKTAKISHVILI (1924-1989)
Symphony No. 2 in C minor (1953) [44:23]
Mogrelian Songs for tenor, male voice octet and chamber orchestra (1972) [6:28]
Gurian Songs for male vocal quartet, mixed chorus and symphony orchestra (1971) [20:55]
State Academic Symphony Orchestra/Evgeni Svetlanov (symphony); Z Sotkilava; Rustavi Vocal Ensemble/E Erkomayshvili; Leningrad Chamber Orchestra/composer (Mogrelian); L Belobragina (sop); Rustavi Vocal Ensemble/E Erkomayshvili; Academic Grand Chorus/K Ptitza; USSR TV and Radio Large Symphony Orchestra/composer (Gurian)
rec. 1992. DDD (symphony); 1970s? AAD (Gurian; Mogrelian).
RUSSIAN DISC RDCD 00768 [72:35]

Otar Taktakishvili is a Georgian composer we should know more about. His music is intensely poetic and touches the listener melodically - straight from the shoulder. He wrote many works including some light-drenched and lyrical concertos.

In this Second Symphony the composer takes us on a journey through pages of sisyphean exertion typical of the high tensile Soviet symphony we may know from the Boris Tchaikovsky First. He is in safe hands with Svetlanov who reliably articulates not just the fervour of the high and valiant places but also Taktakishvili's alma mater - a certain cantabile poetry of place and mind. The latter can be experienced in the first movement of the Symphony at 5:52 onwards. There is, by the way, nothing of Shostakovich in this work. If anything there is a tang of Georgian folk music and a shading from Miaskovsky. The Vivo second movement is a great contrast and is very much of the people with village dances skittishly and graciously used. Then comes a long Andante which is turbulent and epic-tragic. The writing has the redolence of the strenuously grand brass work in the First Symphony of Balys Dvarionas. There’s less of Shostakovich in the mix and more of Tchaikovsky and of Khachaturian. The brass retains that refulgent blare that is the signature of the finest Russian orchestras and which is gradually being purged much to the listeners’ impoverishment. The recording quality of the Symphony is magnificent and will appeal to you as it does to me for its lively vigour and vivid resonant image. The natural decay of sound in this ideally reverberant hall is allowed to die away without being throttled off by premature technical silences at the ends of tracks. The tragic grandeur of the third movement bridges the by and large gentle dances of the second movement having more in common with the grandstanding of the first. This is a languid sorrowing hymn lofted high by optimism. At 8:00 the heavy brass and searing strings rise to new lachrymose climactic heights. After the roaring abrasive gold of the massed horns at 09:00 there is a curve downwards into gentle and almost filmic melancholia. Strings, harp and solo flute end proceeding in a radiant ppp gleam from the violins.

The recordings of the Mogrelian Songs and Gurian Songs presumably date from the 1970s although we are not told. The two works have in common a Male Vocal Octet and in this version the composer as conductor. The Mogrelian Songs are from folk sources and are in Georgian. The Gurian work again uses words of the country people but in a Russian language version by G Andreyeva.

We need to hear more of Taktakishvili. There is a Cambria CD of his Piano Concerto No. 1. I hope that in addition to various Melodiya revivals we might wish for Naxos will in early course turn their attention to his orchestral music.

Rob Barnett

Lyrical and heroic music with a touch of shimmering magic.