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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Georgy SVIRIDOV (1915-1998)
The blizzard, music illustrations (1975) [27.39]
Pushkin Garland, concerto for choir (1979) [35.34]
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Fedoseyev (Blizzard)
Natalia Gerasimova (soprano), Alexander Vedernikov (bass), Moscow Chamber Choir, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra chamber ensemble/Vladimir Minin (Pushkin)
rec. Moscow,1975 (Blizzard) and 1979
MELODIYA MELCD1002202 [63.13]

This is yet another of Melodiya's reissues of archive material which is effectively torpedoed by the lack of essential information about what is after all pretty well totally unfamiliar music.

The 'concerto for choir' Pushkin Garland consists of ten settings of poems by the famous Russian poet, but the one paragraph devoted to the work in the booklet gives not the slightest indication of what the words are about and - it regrettably seems almost superfluous to say - no texts and translations are provided either. Instead, we are told, "It has a great deal of inflorescences and stems to it at the same time, a multitude of diverse themes and motifs." This flowery prose is no substitute for some really solid information about the music. At least some of Pushkin's poetry is available in translation online, which is more than could be said for some of the similarly deprived Melodiya transfers which I have reviewed recently. Is it really too late to beseech Melodiya to have some pity on their international audience, and give us the essential guidance which that audience needs if it is properly to appreciate this music?

Sviridov as a composer is a highly appreciable commodity. The suite from the film music to The blizzard (otherwise entitled The snowstorm) is Soviet light music of the most approachable kind - think of Khachaturian's Masquerade, for example. Although the sound of the recording here is rather blatant it reflects the nature of the music well. The flute solo at the beginning of Spring and autumn (track 3) is rather closely miked in the balance - as are the woodwinds elsewhere - but there is plenty of air around the sound. The music lacks the sheer originality and ironic undertow of Shostakovich's film scores, although it is clear that Sviridov as a pupil learned much from his study with the older composer. It is unclear how much re-arrangement was undertaken by the composer to produce these "music illustrations to A Pushkin's novel," but it has charm in spades. Several of the tracks could well become popular classics, given the right sort of exposure on Classic FM. One should however avoid the brassy trumpet solo in the Romance (track 4) which sounds for all the world like something out of a spaghetti Western, and the meretricious Military March (track 6).

The Pushkin Garland owes much to the example of the Russian 'choral symphonies' of Tsarist composers such as Bortnyansky, with its block harmonies moving in stately progression. It is only the use of secular texts that distinguishes the music from the religious music of composers such as Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Although a chamber orchestra is credited as participating in the music, there is no evidence of their presence except in the fifth movement when their sudden entry is rather unexpected . and unexplained . nor are we given the forenames of the two excellent soloists. The singing, as one would expect from a Russian choir, is full of Slavonic fervour and richness, although the tuning sounds a bit off during track 14. The recording is not overly resonant, speaking of a concert hall rather than a cathedral although again we are denied this information in the booklet.

Once again the listener who really wants to engage with the music is stymied by the total lack of information on what the poetry is about. The poetry of Pushkin is available online, but most of it is only to be viewed in Russian. English translations which are to be found are largely restricted to the most popular of his works. A search on a number of sites disclosed no English translations of any of the poems included in the Pushkin Garland, although it is possible that I simply failed to find them under the titles given in the booklet here. One can detect the very distantly placed semi-chorus in the setting of the poem Echo, but then one would expect that sort of effect from the title.

A listener who does not speak Russian has no option but to allow the music to simply wash over them, without any real detailed engagement with what the composer is trying to convey. I cannot believe that Sviridov, who clearly cared deeply about Pushkin - he set many others of his poems apart from these - would begin to find that satisfactory.

Paul Corfield Godfrey