Georgian Miniatures for string orchestra
Sulchan NASSIDZE (1927-1996)
Chamber Symphony No. 3 (1969) [19:06]
Joseph BARDANASHVILI (b. 1948)
Concerto quasi una Fantasia for piano, strings, celesta and harpsichord (1996) [26:55]
Sulchan ZINZADSE (1925-1991)
Miniatures for Chamber Orchestra [19:26]
Alexander Korsantia (piano)
Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt/Ariel Zuckermann
rec. 19-21 September 2010, Historischer Reitstadt, Neumarkt/Oberpfalz
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 784 [65:27]

The recorded classical music legacy of the one-time Middle-Eastern and Asian soviet republics is pretty much a closed book. Yet before state-controlled recording activity folded thousands of classical works were issued on LP. Will those tapes or LPs ever be transferred? Anything is possible but I am not holding my breath. There used to be at least one web-site that offered custom transfers of a host of LPs of operas, symphonies and concertos by Azeri and other composers of the Asian extremities of the Soviet confederation. How reliable it was I do not know. Until a happy day collectors and the curious will have to console their hearts with fine expatriate issues such as this made in Germany.

Sulkhan Nassidse wrote eight symphonies, five string quartets and concertos for violin, two violins, bassoon, piano and violin and cello. There are also ballets and an oratorio My Country. The Chamber Symphony No. 3 is in one twenty minute movement. The writing is tremendously powerful and virtuosic. The style has that sinuous oriental caramel quality. It is driven home by stark and hoarse writing redolent of Shostakovich's string symphonies and Bartok at his most turbocharged and insolent.

Bardanashvili was born in Batumi but is now a musical eminence in Israel. He has symphonies, operas and concertos to his name. The piece featured here is in effect his Piano Concerto - originally in one movement and now in three - each having its own track. It is played here in leonine style by the composer's friend, the Georgian pianist Alexander Korsantia. The composer piles tension upon tension in the highly rhetorical piano and strings writing. Part of the work's effect is achieved by the relaxation that comes when this deeply stacked linear activity ceases. The remission accentuates the ideas that float freely upwards liberated from the whirring chasmal sounds that relate perhaps to Martinů's Concerto for piano and double string orchestra. The simplicity that enters for example at the start of the second movement recalls that of Valentin Silvestrov. The composer tells us that the Lisztian mitrailleuse harrying of the finale is a rearrangement of the middle movement of his 1983 Cello Concerto. No one can claim that the present performance delivers short change in the dynamism and fortissimo stakes. This is a really pumped-up assault.

Zinzadse's Miniatures come along as the equivalent of one of Beecham's bonne bouches designed to send the audiences home soothed. The eleven pieces may well be familiar in their string quartet format having been recorded by Sony a decade or so ago. These are relaxation after so much high tension torment in Nassidse and Bardanashvili. The writing is suave, light on the palate, witty, oriental in accent, sensitive, delicately pointed and enchanting. You might think about Skalkottas's Greek Dances but in fact these pieces find closer comparison in Frank Bridge's string miniatures with an infusion of Rimsky's and Khachaturian's oriental roses.

The liner-note covers all the listener's immediate needs for background.

The instant and captivating winner here is the Zinzadse - wait until ClassicFM discover this will they? The other two pieces also impress for their impetuosity and heroic fury.

Rob Barnett

The captivating winner is the Zinzadse - but the other two impress for their heroically furious impetuosity.