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Leningrad Concertos
Galina Ivanovna USTVOLSKAYA (1919-2006)
Concerto for Piano, Strings and Timpani (1946) [13:33]
Orest Alexandrovich YEVLAKHOV (1912-1973)
Poem Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1971) [14:28]
Vladislav Alexandrovich USPENSKY (1937-2004)
Music for Violin and Orchestra (1973) [11:03]
Music for Strings, Percussion, Voice, Harp and Piano (1981) [15:45]
Grigory Ovshievitch KORCHMAR (b.1947)
Diptych Concerto for Viola, Percussion, Celesta and Harp (1982) [15:50]
Pavel Serebryakov (piano); Leningrad Chamber Orchestra/Yuri Serebryakov (Ustvolskaya)
Mikhail Vaiman (violin); Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Arvids Jansons (Yevlakhov)
Boris Gutnikov (violin); Leningrad Chamber Orchestra/Eduard Serov; Nina Romanova (mezzo), Grigory Korchmar (piano), Vera Bocharova (harp), Vladimir Peskin (percussion)
Leningrad Chamber Orchestra/Eduard Serov (Uspensky); Alexey Ludewig (viola); Leningrad Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Dmitriev (Korchmar)
rec. 1970-83, Leningrad

These works are ‘little’ (in terms of duration) concertos. Their Malcolm Arnold-like playing time is one thing, but their substance is another matter. The composers’ names are unfamiliar apart from that of Ustvolskaya. The recordings date from the 1970s and 1980s with the Ustvolskaya having seen the light of studio day in 1970.

1970 is a while ago and the sound, while captured perfectly cleanly in a seemingly cavernous acoustic, tells as much. Ustvolskaya is by far the least obscure in this company. Indeed, this concerto has been recorded before on Megadisc. There are quite a few other discs of music from this composer as a search of this site will show. She has been the subject of at least one other Northern Flowers CD. The site’s most recent attention came in the form of a populist recital of her film music (Brilliant). The Piano Concerto, for all of its grandly snatched final bars, has many Shostakovich resonances. The music strains towards strenuously won exaltation. This is not an exercise in the ineffable excitement and melodiousness of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.

Yevlakhov’s Poem Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was written a year after the Ustvolskaya recording. The title is not to be taken as raising Khachaturian expectations. It’s at first an angular piece, passionately orated by the virtuoso, Vaiman. It ends in peaceful mystery. He has recorded extensively, including the concertos by Machavariani and Klyuzner. The compact violin concerto we hear is from a 1973 Melodiya LP but sounds pristine. Yevlakhov has been smiled on already by Northern Flowers, who made available his third, of three symphonies, in volume 1 of the Leningrad symphonies series. The Yevlakhov is the most passionate and instantly attractive of the five works here.

The 1973 Music for Violin and Orchestra by Omsk-born Uspensky is a work of flickering Gallicism, staunched only by a patina of severity that steers it in and out of Rawsthorne-like activity. A tender whispering chiming (9:10) presents Uspensky in another light. Boris Gutnikov appears well attuned to this music and shows his wide taste already touched on in his Khachaturian and Britten (Olympia). The same composer’s Music for Strings, Percussion, Voice, Harp and Piano is from some ten years later than the violin work. It is a romantic piece that, among the sense of ritual (remarked upon in the music of Sergei Zhukov), makes you work energetically to gain an appreciation of its pleasures. The piano, harp and solo voice (vocalise) all offer accessible succour to the listener who looks for sweetener, if not sugar; mystery rather than overt revelation. It ends in quiet gentleness. This composer has featured on the label’s Leningrad Violin Concertos disc but is otherwise little known.

Korchmar’s Diptych Concerto for Viola, Percussion, Celesta and Harp is, like the second Uspensky work, from the early 1980s. Its two movements are Notturno and Perpetuum Mobile. The music is polished, arcane, sweetly shaped, and, in the case of the Perpetuum Mobile, replete with pattering motoric activity. It’s all microscopically calculated, so much so that while it fascinates it does not engender affection. The composer is the pianist amongst the soloists in the Diptych. Korchmar was born in Kaliningrad and studied composition with symphonist Vadim Salmanov. Korchmar’s catalogue includes concertos from the 1970s for cello and violin.

A valuable and well documented disc, satisfying and feeding curiosity with these succinct and imaginative concertos. They are largely by composers almost unknown in the West, even to the most informed of music enthusiasts.

Rob Barnett

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