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Igor RAYKHELSON (b. 1961)
Orchestral Music - Volume Three
Piano Concerto in G minor (2007) [32:48]
Cello Concerto in B minor (2010) [26:36]
Boris Berezovsky (piano)
Alexander Kniazev (cello)
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Hobart Earle
rec. June 2013, Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory
TOCCATA TOCC 0219 [59:24]

Toccata Classics’ blurb is keen to reprint a critic’s comment that Igor Raykhelson’s music is ‘a world of unreconstructed and unapologetic Romanticism’ adding that the two concertos in this latest third volume of the Orchestral Music series (see review of Volume 1) maintain the emphasis on a melodic language rooted in Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.
 
Indeed it’s true. The Piano Concerto in G minor, composed in 2007, is performed by Boris Berezovsky with tremendous richness of tone and technical accomplishment. The original three-movement format, premièred by Vadim Kholodenko in 2007, is here replaced by the four-movement version premièred the following year by Berezovsky. The extra movement is a scherzo for solo piano in ‘Jazz style’, and it would be interesting to know why the composer reconfigured the work. I assume he gauged it needed more contrast moving from the slow movement to the finale, and that this little scherzo would expand the stylistic and expressive contours of the work.
 
The piano writing is strongly redolent of Rachmaninov – both the third and fourth concertos in particular – but there are even brief motifs that put me in mind of Rimsky-Korsakov; there’s one especially the first movement. Scoring is lush and very lyrical, as one might expect with brass and answering piano writing adding keen lustre to the work’s romanticist spirit. The quietly elegiac slow movement builds to a funeral march, though unlike Malcolm MacDonald in his customarily authoritative booklet notes I don’t hear any real Shostakovich influence and to me the ‘mid-twentieth century accents’ are illusory. The scherzo contains hints of classicised Ragtime and also toccata devilry. MacDonald suggests Art Tatum as an influence and whilst I don’t, we can agree on Kapustin. The finale is perhaps the least successful movement, tending to lack the spirit of individuality that animates the remainder of the concerto, though the reflective passages are in keeping with its rich and communicative qualities.
 
The Cello Concerto was written in 2010 and dedicated to the excellent soloist in this recording, Alexander Kniazev. The ethos here is more rhapsodic, and less self-consciously grand than in the companion concerto. The soloist is kept busy throughout, and encouraged to explore the full range of the cello, top to bottom. Yet Raykhelson is astute at judging when the cello will sound and when to thin his orchestration. In the slow movement there are quite explicitly Rachmaninovian orchestral string passages but the solo cello explores a peak of anguish, relaxing into a beautifully intense rapture of melancholy. The orchestral cloak still cleaves to Rachmaninov but ghostly echoes seem to evoke Prokofiev, even Elgar, though never explicitly. The elegant finale, not without its virtuoso challenges, is rather filmic and makes a satisfying conclusion to a clever, thoughtful and often subtle work.
 
Production values from this label are exceptionally high, with documentation, recording and presentation being outstanding.
 
Jonathan Woolf