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Boris LYATOSHYNSKY (1895-1968)
Symphony No.3 in B minor Op.50 (first version 1951) [44.35]
Symphonic Ballad Grazhyna Op.58 (1955) [18.38]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
rec. Lighthouse, Poole, England, 2018
SACD/CD Hybrid, 5.0 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, Reviewed in surround

For the second volume of their increasingly interesting series Voices from the East, the first was the music of Karayev, the BSO and Kirill Karabits have chosen the music of Karabits' compatriot Boris Lyatoshynsky, a composer, dare I say it, of much more substance than Karayev. Lyatoshynsky is not unknown in the current CD catalogue, all the symphonies and Grazhyna having been recorded before mainly on CPO, Naxos and Marco Polo labels. This, however, is the first British recorded performance and the first on SACD. The conductor's mother, Dr Maryana Kopytsya, is the foremost authority on Lyatoshynsky and the conductor's father was one of his composition students, so this work means a great deal to Karabits. Despite these links, the composer is sufficiently obscure for there to be questions about the correctness of some information about the main work, the 3rd Symphony. All references to the piece, online and in the otherwise excellent and very necessary notes by Andrew Burn, give the subtitles, "Peace shall defeat war" and "To the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the October Revolution". So far as I can discover "Peace shall defeat war" is the epigraph for the original final movement only (Theodor Kulchar, Naxos website) and "25th Anniversary of the October Revolution" makes no sense as a dedication since that took place in 1942 and this symphony dates from 1951 with a revision in 1955. There is a Symphony No.2 by Khachaturian, written 1943, that is written for the 25th anniversary of the Revolution. Have lines been crossed somewhere? Frustratingly, the key documents are not available in English or on-line. I hope I may be able to add an explanatory footnote at a later stage.

The four movement 3rd Symphony had a difficult gestation being banned by the Soviet authorities and only gaining performances after revisions to the apparently anti-Soviet finale. It seems the movement title "Peace shall defeat War" encapsulated precisely the objections of the cultural apparatchiks of the day. They felt that a properly Soviet view should believe War to be the greater reason to celebrate. Not until the composer reworked a finale in line with that viewpoint was there acceptance of the piece. There is a recording by Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic from 1955 which preserves this second version of the finale. Karabits, as one might expect, returns to the original for this very fine performance and recording.

The performance given by these musicians in Poole on the 31st January 2018 was very well received by a capacity audience many of whom had probably turned up to hear Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 and had no idea what to expect of this "modern" Ukrainian symphony. My own view, as one of those for whom this piece was the purpose for attending the concert, was that I had heard something worth close attention and which demanded further listening. I am delighted that the orchestra was able to return to the score in May 2018 and also to add the impressive Symphonic Ballad Grazhyna to the recorded program. Still more pleasing is the fact that Chandos have given us the full SACD 5.0 surround treatment. The Lighthouse in Poole is a respectable acoustic when the orchestra is on the stage in front of a raked auditorium full of people but it is a very fine one when the seating is folded away and the orchestra is allowed to occupy the now-flat centre of the space. What we hear is a lovely, spacious yet detailed sound revealing all one could wish of this colourful and dramatic score. What emerges from repeated listening is a distinctive voice, more conservative than Shostakovich and Prokofiev but with some of their edgy emotional impact. The closest I can come to describing what this music is like is to name Glière and Miaskovsky but also a strong dose of Suk and perhaps Richard Strauss. Most importantly, with each additional playing of this SACD, the music gets better and justifies my first thoughts just over a year ago, that Lyatoshynsky's Symphony No.3 is an important piece and we owe a debt of gratitude to Kirill Karabits for bringing it to our attention. Who knows, maybe this could be part of the BSO's next Prom, whenever that might be. It would go down a storm at the Albert Hall.

Dave Billinge

Previous review: Rob Barnett


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