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Airat ICHMOURATOV (b.1973)
Orchestral Works
Concerto Grosso No.1, Op.28 (2011) [21:10]
Three Romances, Op.22 for Viola and Strings, with Harp (2009) [21:18]
Octet, Op.56 Letter from an Unknown Woman in G minor for string orchestra (arr. composer) (2017) [17:16]
Elvira Misbakhova (viola); Airat Ichmouratov (clarinet); Pavel Batsian (violin); Elvira Misbakhova (viola); Alexander Serdiukov (cello); Marina Romeyko (piano); Igor Avdeyev (percussion); Roman Zhdanovich (percussion); Oksana Sushkova (harp)
Belarusian State Chamber Orchestra/Evgeny Bushkov
rec. 2018, Verhni Gorod Concert Hall, Minsk, Belarus
CHANDOS CHAN20141 [59:33]

Composer, conductor and klezmer clarinettist Airat Ichmouratov was born in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. In 1997, while in Canada - where he has now made his home - he met and connected with Yuli Turovsky (1939-2013), Soviet-born Canadian cellist and conductor. Ichmouratov has conducted the Quebec Symphony and I Musici de Montréal. He joined the klezmer group Kleztory (clarinet, guitar, violin, double-bass and accordion) whose work alongside that of I Musici de Montreal can be heard on another Chandos disc CHAN10181 from 2004. His list of compositions makes sobering reading and includes a symphony "On the ruins of ancient Fort" (2017), four string quartets (2003, 2009, 2010, 2013) three of which he has also arranged for string orchestra and concertos for viola (2), oboe, cello and piano.

Where does his music ‘fit’? Naturally, he ploughs his own furrow in his own field. However, I need to give some, even ham-fisted, impression and it is that his music is tonal-accessible. That might, by some, be regarded as the kiss of mediocre death … but certainly not so. His music is of considerable sophistication with lots of solo “voices” speaking out from the orchestral textures. Ideas ebb, flood and flow. This is a CD of three Ichmouratov’s orchestral works superbly recorded over sessions that spanned three days.

Concerto Grosso No.1 is the first of two - the second was written last year - laid out for violin, flute, harp and orchestra. The latter is said to be “written in a contemporary baroque style.” The First Concerto Grosso is dedicated to Yuli Turovsky. Its three movements are passionate, sparking and sparkling with sentimentality. Its melodic credentials are not hidden and its contours coast close to Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. The ideas and the treatment of the middle movement convey a vulnerability that is both creamy, soulful and touching. The finale has an urgently active piano role and a clear klezmer flavour. The composer’s clarinet casts its spell and rises and sways like a flickering serpent. The whole work should appeal to those who enjoy Robert Farnon or Karl Jenkins but with a dusting of Nikolai Kapustin.

Romance is patently and explicitly promised in Three Romances, Op.22 for Viola and Strings, with Harp. This three-movement work has a viola solo played by the composer’s wife. It’s a work, again in three movements, that is nostalgic and wistful at times, more intense and dynamic at others. The Romances were written in 2009 as a birthday gift for and an affectionate character portrayal of Eleonora Turovsky (1939–2012). The viola speaks out and seems to strive to reach the listener. If it feels as if it is falling short it is all the more powerful because of its aspiration. The composer is unafraid of tenderness or sentimentality. Its undulations are sweetened through tenderness rather than spiced. You should like this in its own right but it should also hit the spot if you already have a liking for Richard Rodney Bennett’s Lady Caroline Lamb: Elegy for Viola and Orchestra (1972).

Letter from an Unknown Woman is based on a string octet but here written up to string orchestra dimensions - as Ichmouratov did with three of his four string quartets. The sound of these three movements has a dense and tense melancholy. It’s tragic and the faintly sinister shuddering is, like the other two scores, very easy to like. The music sprang from the novella Brief einer Unbekannten by Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) which, through a letter, tracks the lifelong love of a female writer. She is seduced by her uncaring object of desire who is quite unaware that he had fathered a child. The child is cared for by the woman “until the child dies and she (the writer) finds herself unable to continue life.”

The booklet notes are by Keith Horner. They are satisfying. Mr Horner admirably breaks new ground by giving his own email address and welcoming comments. You don’t see that very often.

Rob Barnett

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