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Rapid Movement
Alexander TSFASMAN (1906-1971)
Suite for piano and orchestra (1945) [15:23]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Concerto No.1 for piano, trumpet and string orchestra in C minor, Op.35 (1933) [21:35]
Nikolai KAPUSTIN (b.1937)
Piano Concerto No.2, Op.14 (1972) [16:39]
Dmitry Masleev (piano)
Leonid Gourjev (trumpet)
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Lande
rec. 2019
MELODIYA MELCD1002624 [53:43]

Flying under the disc title ‘Rapid Movement’ this release scores heavily by including music by Tsfasman and Kapustin. The centrepiece may well be Shostakovich’s First Concerto but I suspect it’s rather more to the other two pieces that attention will be focused.

Alexander Tsfasman will be known to those with a penchant for the development of jazz in the Soviet Union. He was a famous big band leader as well as being a brilliant pianist – he’d been a pupil of Felix Blumenfeld at the Moscow Conservatory, so his training had been classical. He pushed his jazz career whilst earning essential finances by working as a ballet accompanist and composer for the Bolshoi Theatre. He backed well-known singers on 78s and recorded film soundtracks and during the War led the All-Union Radio Committee jazz band. In 1944 he sent Benny Goodman his Intermezzo for clarinet and orchestra and the following year he composed the Suite heard in this recording.

Tsfasman was the first Russian pianist to perform Rhapsody in Blue and his Suite is peppered with digital legerdemain, Charleston-evoking panache and couched in virtuoso stylization. It also embraces graceful lyricism and the power of the dance. The inner two movements are a Waltz, both affectionate and haunting, and a Polka with disarmingly throwaway gestures as well as wit and nostalgia. The finale, which bears the title of the album, Rapid Movement, is a supercharged toccata with exuberant orchestral support and set firmly in Hollywood film style. ‘Phew’ is the best response at the end of this captivating and invigorating piece.

Kapustin’s music has been increasingly available but it’s always a pleasure to enjoy his fusion of grace and power. There are inter-connections between the two composers as Kapustin played the piano at a memorial concert for Tsfasman in 1971. Kapustin’s Piano Concerto No.2 was composed the following year, a decade or so after his First Concerto. It’s more laid back than Tsfasman’s Suite, its ethos also necessarily more consistent. Couched in Big Band procedure, the percussion trades in tap rhythms and the band in jazzy skirls. The central Andante has a light Latin feel evoking a piano-and-guitar rhythm and some avid Gershwinesque lines. Like the final movement of Tsfasman’s work, Kapustin saves a Rondo-toccata to garnish his concerto with exciting bravura.

Dmitry Masleev plays both these works with idiomatic drive and plenty of style. He brings these qualities too to the Shostakovich, finding the circus brouhaha in the Allegretto nicely, aided by trumpeter Leonid Gourjev whose cornet-toned playing enhances the slow movement. To complete the chain of associations Shostakovich and Tsfasman were good colleagues.

These spirited readings are rewarding and engaging.

Jonathan Woolf

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