Alla BORZOVA (b. 1961)
Songs for Lada (1986-91) (Texts by Alla Borzova, drawn from Belarussian children’s folk songs, rhymes, games, dances and lullabies) [35:37]
To the New World (2001-02) [14:13]
Valentina Fleer (soprano) (1-4), Valentina Kozak (folk contralto) (1, 3-5), Valerij Yavor (dudkas) (2, 5), Christopher Deane (cimbalom) (3), Kasya Radzivilava (bagpipe) (3), Michigan State University Children’s Choir (2, 5)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. live, Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, USA, 15-18 January 2009 (Lada), 24-27 September 2010 (New World)
If you enjoy folk-inspired works, including with children’s choirs you cannot fail to welcome this disc which came to me as a great and pleasant surprise.
The main work is brilliantly conceived and wonderfully executed music of real interest which is maintained throughout its length. Based on children’s folk songs, rhymes, games, dances and lullabies it weaves a tapestry of magical proportions using folk instruments and the voice of a soprano and a folk contralto who is known as The Golden Voice of Belarus. Each of its five movements is a joy to listen to with a uniquely fashioned concept. I was fascinated to notice a short passage in the first minute of the first movement that reminded me of Copland’s Old American Songs and I thought that both Copland and Borzova tried to establish a classical music uniquely of their countries. The cycle has in its first movement a representation of birdsong and the final section of the last movement brings us back full circle with a repetition augmented by a recording of real birdsong (as with Rautavaara’s Concerto for Birds and Orchestra). It makes for a charming end to a wonderfully evocative composition.
The umbrella title of this Naxos collection which includes works by the likes of Howard Hanson, John Adams, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Walter Piston, Ned Rorem, Sousa and many others is an extremely valuable one but I can’t help wondering if it is correct to include this disc as part of that series, the major work of which was written well before the composer arrived in the USA and who has only lived in the country for thirteen years and whose inspiration for it is so much a part of Belarus.
On the other hand the other work on the disc which is also quite original is centred on the very arrival in the USA of the huge number of immigrants from the world over and seeks extremely successfully to represent many of the hundreds of nationalities involved. Imagining a ship laden with people from all over creates with various leitmotifs a snapshot of many of the ethnic backgrounds on board. From a central all-embracing “immigrant” theme we are presented with snatches of music from various sources, both real (a German melody) and imagined: Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Africa, China and klezmer sounds to represent the millions of Jews who left Europe for America. On the ship’s “arrival” in America we hear strains of jazz from the shore which increase in volume as the ship draws nearer to the docks. Finally there’s a repeat of the “immigration” theme which brings us full circle to the beginning and the thought that America is a true ‘melting pot’ and music amongst so many other things is a big beneficiary of this process. The work’s musical message is profound and worthy and perfectly expressed in its short fourteen minute length.
Alla Borzova is yet another discovery for me but well worth it and her other compositions I shall be exploring with relish. The orchestra, choir and soloists clearly enjoy themselves in this recording and the result is a truly different musical experience deserving of high praise.
Steve Arloff 
A truly different musical experience deserving of high praise.