One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

16th-19th November

Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing
this disc through MusicWeb
for £10.50 postage paid world-wide.

Nikolai KORNDORF (1947-2001)
Complete Music for Cello
Concerto capriccioso for cello and percussion (1986) [28:55]
Triptych for cello and piano (1998-99) [23:26] ¹
Passacaglia for solo cello (1997) [23:49]
Alexander Ivashkin (cello)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra of Moscow/Konstantin Krimets
Anya Alexeyev (piano) ¹
rec. August 2001, Studio One, Moscow Radio House (Passacaglia); November 2005, live at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatoire (Concerto capriccioso): December 2006, live at Lazaridis Theatre, Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Canada (Triptych)
TOCCATA TOCC0128 [76:24]

Russian-born composer Nikolai Korndorf died in his Canadian home in 2001, whilst playing a game of football with his son.  He was still only in his early 50s. He had taught composition at the Moscow Conservatoire, where young radicals apparently called him ‘our Rimsky- Korsakov’, and received critical acclaim for a series of works including his opera (called MR – Marina and Rainer) and his Third Symphony but in 1991 had emigrated, continuing to produce challenging new music. This 2012 Toccata disc presents two premiere recordings, both of which are live (the Passacaglia has been recorded before) but  it must also now serve as an memorial for the cello soloist and friend of Korndorff, Alexander Ivashkin, whose death was recently announced.
Ivashkin, knowing Korndorff - and so many others - so well, writes booklet notes that dwell on a number of salutary themes and they make for rewarding reading, both biographically and for the light they shed on Korndorff’s compositional directions. The Concerto capriccioso for cello and percussion was composed in 1986 but had to wait until January 2004 for its première, which was given by Ivashkin in Winnipeg. This live Moscow performance followed nearly three years later in December 2006. Ivashkin advances ideas about its links to ritualistic Russian paganism and elements of minimalism, and the percussive elements do indeed sound reminiscent of Buddhist ritual. But it can be listened to perfectly well as a sonic exploration in its own right in which tinkling percussion and yearning quasi-improvisatory cello offer a sense of rapture and vocalised intensity. As the music develops a sense of the processional is built up, and Korndorf delivers a powerful distillation of ecstasy to end the long first section. The second movement is half the size of the first and has a very different character. The minimalist element, seemingly locked with the Buddhist, is soon accompanied by a Rock beat as the music not merely swings between genres but actively conjoins them.
The Triptych for cello and piano was completed in 1999 and is in three movements. The cello plumbs the depth and there’s a strong element of reflective, in fact melancholic writing in the opening movement, marked Lament, which takes on a highly updated ‘Baroque’ quality. The central movement comes as a complete contrast – in fact it’s a transcription taken from Korndorf’s orchestral work The Smile of Maud Lewis, completed a year earlier. The piano charts a repetitive course whilst the cello pirouettes and deftly turns above it. Russian Orthodox ritual suffuses the finale, citing a specific hymn, before ending in a kind of jubilation. The only one of the three pieces to have been recorded before is Passacaglia, a powerful 24-minute work for the solo cello. It was written for Ivashkin and is a kind of palimpsest of theDivine Comedy in which the cello is the narrator. Eerie microtones, finger taps on the body of the cello, and spoken text (by the cellist) fuse together. The col legno effects and thumps attest to the terse descriptive power invoked, and the ascent to the Paradiso’s chorale is hard-won. Dante’s relevant Cantos are reprinted in the booklet.
The performances throughout are hugely committed and sensitively shaped, with recording quality to match – this despite the fact that two were recorded live and there are three different recording locations. It is fitting to salute Ivashkin’s profound dedication to this body of work, and fitting also to reflect on Korndorf’s musical and cultural breadth of reference in these highly individual and often solemnly beautiful works.
Jonathan Woolf