Author Topic: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers  (Read 59302 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« on: July 13, 2008, 02:43:48 PM »
Since we've had threads devoted to American, British, Scandinavian and Japanese composers, I thought that it was time for a Russian/Soviet one. Of the lesser known ones, Miaskovsky stands out for me, a key linking figure between the 19th Century nationalist figures (Rimsky, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Balakirev, Liadov etc) and the great 20th Century figures like his friend Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Miaskovsky is well served on CD now with a complete set of symphonies on Warner and the Olymia/Alto set of symphonies being completed in August. In some ways, though, the best introduction is the one and only Naxos CD of Miaskovsky symphonies, containing two of the best, No 24 and 25. There is a separate Miaskovsky thread here too.

Gavril Popov (1904-72) is another great figure, whose First Symphony is the only one I know, apart from Vainberg's (or Weinberg's) Symphony No. 5 which stands comparison with Shostakovich's 4th Symphony. A terrifically compelling manic score.

Vissarion Shebalin (1902-63) is another composer whose music has meant a lot to me, especially symphonies 1 (like Miaskovsky) and the moving, valedictory 5th Symphony. Sadly, with the demise of Olympia his music is now difficult to find on CD.

Finally, for now, there is Vadim Salmanov (1912-78) , whose four symphonies, on a double CD set are well worth exploring. Mravinsky obviously thought highly of them as he recorded them all. Nos 1 and 4 are my favourites, No 2 is also a fine score. I have been listening to No 4 a lot recently. It was premiered by Mravinsky in 1977, not long before Salmanov's death (the performance is the one featured in the set) and there is a photo of Mravinsky and Salmanov together, at the premiere in the accompanying booklet. One critic described it as a "farewell symphony" and the last movement is very touching. The symphonies are a bit derivative of Shostakovich but I think that Salmanov is still well worth exploring. I am about to explore his string quartets, which are highly regarded by some.

These are just a few composers, but I look forward to reading about others.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2008, 02:47:13 PM by vandermolen »
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Offline some guy

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2008, 03:00:46 PM »
Good idea, Vandermolen. It's still a bit of an effort to find Russian composers. Or Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, et cetera. Even in 2008.

I have, for instance, only one CD of the very talented and interesting Tarnopolski, who has made it onto CD only one or two other times, who is still fairly young, but try finding anything new by him!

I have three CDs of Tishchenko, which means the seventh symphony, the third symphony, the concerto for violin, piano, and strings, and the string quartet no. 4. (This last is something a Russian friend of mine burned for me years ago, so I don't yet have the first quartet, which is coupled with the fourth.)

Even the indefatigable IMEB has only come up with a couple of people doing electroacoustics. Eduard Artemiev is one. (I have his dark and almost orchestral "I would like to return" on the stereo as I type this.)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2008, 03:08:41 PM »
Thank you Some Guy  :)

I never heard of Tarnopolski and the others (apart from Tishchenko), but will see what I can discover.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2008, 04:57:53 PM »
You are, of course, quite correct in what you say about Miaskovsky, Jeffrey, so I shall take that as read.

I agree too about Popov. It is unfortunate that Olympia did not get around to issuing recordings of Popov's 3rd and 4th symphonies before its demise. The other four are all interesting works. There is a Telarc version of No.1(London symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein) which i have not heard.

Olympia did manage to issue a complete set of the Shebalin and his symphonies too are attractive and rewarding.

Can I mention one or two others then-

Boris Tchaikovsky(no relative) is an extremely impressive composer of obvious real integrity. I have managed to build up a collection of most of his major orchestral works-the four symphonies, the piano, violin, cello and clarinet concerti, and a considerable number of other pieces. Naxos has done him a service by recording Symphony No.1 coupled with two good pieces-the Suites "The Mourning Forest" and "After the Ball" and the piano and clarinet concerti. Chandos has issued Symphony No.3 "Sebastopol" and there is a really good Hyperion disc with the Chamber Symphony, Sinfonietta, Six Etudes for Strings and Organ and the Prelude "The Bells". Perhaps the best Symphony is No.2(coupled with No.4-Symphony with Harp on Relief or with some Khachaturian on Russian Disc).
Boris certainly stands in the wake of Shostakovich but is no mere imitator and his music is being promoted by a Boris Tchaikovsky Society.

Tishchenko I find to be uneven. I like Symphony No.5 and the Violin Concerto No.2(both following Shostakovich's model) but haven't been able to come to terms with Symphony No.1 or the huge Symphony No.6. Naxos has issued the Seventh Symphony-an odd work which mixes some impressive passages with others which are bizzarely grotesque. I have just acquired Tishchenko's first two Dante Symphonies but have not yet listened to them.

Neeme Jarvi recorded Maximilian Steinberg's early Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. Steinberg(1883-1946) was Rimsky-Korsakov's son-in-law and Shostakovich's teacher. The first two symphonies did not strike me as particularly inspired but they were written while Steinberg was still in his twenties. He wrote three more(1928, 1933 and 1942-the last two using themes from the Russian Asiatic Republics) which might be interesting.

I did recently manage to buy an ancient recording of Kabalevsky's 4th Symphony-a work which turned out to be better than I had anticipated!

I haven't heard a note of the Soviet era composer Yuri Shaporin(1887-1966), who was once highly regarded but I do have a recording of Lev Knipper's Symphony No.4 "Poem of the Komsomol Fighter". Knipper(1898-1974) was, strictly speaking, Georgian rather than Russian but he did work under the Soviet regime. He produced twenty symphonies, many on patriotic subjects, which I doubt will now see the light of day!

Ok..there are a few more names for you :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2008, 11:53:53 PM »
You are, of course, quite correct in what you say about Miaskovsky, Jeffrey, so I shall take that as read.

I agree too about Popov. It is unfortunate that Olympia did not get around to issuing recordings of Popov's 3rd and 4th symphonies before its demise. The other four are all interesting works. There is a Telarc version of No.1(London symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein) which i have not heard.

Olympia did manage to issue a complete set of the Shebalin and his symphonies too are attractive and rewarding.

Can I mention one or two others then-

Boris Tchaikovsky(no relative) is an extremely impressive composer of obvious real integrity. I have managed to build up a collection of most of his major orchestral works-the four symphonies, the piano, violin, cello and clarinet concerti, and a considerable number of other pieces. Naxos has done him a service by recording Symphony No.1 coupled with two good pieces-the Suites "The Mourning Forest" and "After the Ball" and the piano and clarinet concerti. Chandos has issued Symphony No.3 "Sebastopol" and there is a really good Hyperion disc with the Chamber Symphony, Sinfonietta, Six Etudes for Strings and Organ and the Prelude "The Bells". Perhaps the best Symphony is No.2(coupled with No.4-Symphony with Harp on Relief or with some Khachaturian on Russian Disc).
Boris certainly stands in the wake of Shostakovich but is no mere imitator and his music is being promoted by a Boris Tchaikovsky Society.

Tishchenko I find to be uneven. I like Symphony No.5 and the Violin Concerto No.2(both following Shostakovich's model) but haven't been able to come to terms with Symphony No.1 or the huge Symphony No.6. Naxos has issued the Seventh Symphony-an odd work which mixes some impressive passages with others which are bizzarely grotesque. I have just acquired Tishchenko's first two Dante Symphonies but have not yet listened to them.

Neeme Jarvi recorded Maximilian Steinberg's early Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. Steinberg(1883-1946) was Rimsky-Korsakov's son-in-law and Shostakovich's teacher. The first two symphonies did not strike me as particularly inspired but they were written while Steinberg was still in his twenties. He wrote three more(1928, 1933 and 1942-the last two using themes from the Russian Asiatic Republics) which might be interesting.

I did recently manage to buy an ancient recording of Kabalevsky's 4th Symphony-a work which turned out to be better than I had anticipated!

I haven't heard a note of the Soviet era composer Yuri Shaporin(1887-1966), who was once highly regarded but I do have a recording of Lev Knipper's Symphony No.4 "Poem of the Komsomol Fighter". Knipper(1898-1974) was, strictly speaking, Georgian rather than Russian but he did work under the Soviet regime. He produced twenty symphonies, many on patriotic subjects, which I doubt will now see the light of day!

Ok..there are a few more names for you :)


Thanks Colin  :)

As always, we seem to be in agreement. I do have a B Tchaikovsky CD somewhere (Russian disc I think). I had not made much of it before but following your posting I am going to search it out and explore some of his other works. I didn't realise that there was anything on Naxos. I agree about Tischenko; I have the Olympias not the VC and Symphony 5.

My main point of agreement is concerning Kabalevsky Symphony No 4, which I would love to hear a modern recording of (Chandos?). It invariably gets a bad press but I enjoyed it very much. I have it on a very old Olympia CD, double album with K's overblown requiem, which I do find rather heavy going. His masterpiece I think is his wonderful, deeply felt Cello concerto No 2, which contradicts those who suggests that all his music was facile and superficial. The notorious Tikhon Khrennikov's Second Symphony is not without depth either.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2008, 02:57:37 AM »
The recording of the Kabalevsky 4th I managed to find is on the Monopole label. It is a recording from 1956 with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer in what I suspect is the work's premiere. The couplings are the Violin Concerto in a 1949 recording with David Oistrakh and the Piano concerto No.3 with Emil Gilels from 1954. The sound quality is pretty ropey but the performances are not! The Olympia disc of symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 is virtually unobtainable except at exorbitant prices.

I hope that Chandos keeps its Vainberg/Weinberg series going. The works by Vainberg I have heard, first in the incomplete Olympia series and now on Chandos, indicate a composer of real depth and eloquence, albeit that the huge later symphonies(Nos. 17, 18, 19 for example) are so full of anguish that they do not bear frequent listening(not a Russian Pettersson exactly but certainly a lot of angst!).

pjme

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2008, 02:40:10 PM »
Thanks for all the information.

There must still be a wealth of quasi unexplored music in those Russian archives...

I recently acquired a CD with Andrey Petrov's (°1930) "The time of Christ" - a symphony ( ca 2002) in 6 movements with a choral finale. Dark & brooding ...but after only one listen I cannot say much more.
I occasionally listen to Vyacheslav Artiomov's ( °1940) works. I have a symphony ( Way to Olympus), the Gurian hymn, Invocations for soprano and percussion, Totem and Sonata of meditations for percussion and a huge Requiem (recorded in 1989) that I like . Both Petrov's and Artiomov's music is basically tonal and "acessible" - but both composers use "the whole arsenal of current compositional techniques" ...It can make for uneven, strange stylistic changes.

Leon Mouraviev (1905-1987) I know only by  "Nativité" a wonderful and haunting little work ( ca 13mins.) for stringtrio and stringorchestra ( on a Christophorus CD / Sudwestdeutsches Kammerorchester / Paul Angerer).  He's one of several Russian composers who studied and worked in France.

The strangest of them all may be Nicolai Obouchov ( 1892-1954) See Maciek's link to Modern Russian composers. 

And then there is Sergei Protopopov ...
Sergey Protopopov was the chief proponent of a compositional strategy devised by Kiev-based theorist Boleslav L. Yavorsky. Published in book form as Structure of Musical Speech in 1908, the technique used modal rhythm as its basis, in combination with the uncertain harmonic pull of the tritone. Modal speech-rhythm, as Protopopov called it, is a close kin to the general style and techniques employed by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin in his late works. Protopopov's approach, especially when applied in low passages, is also clearly informed by the work of Mussorgsky, in particular such pieces as "The Witches' Hut on Fowl's Legs" from Pictures at an Exhibition.

After completing a term in the faculty medical school at Moscow, Protopopov studied under Yavorsky, and took his degree from the Kiev Conservatory in 1921. Protopopov was mainly known as a conductor who worked with various orchestras throughout the U.S.S.R. His diminutive catalogue consists of only 11 works dating from 1917 to 1931. Protopopov's key pieces are the Three Piano Sonatas Opp. 1 (1920 - 1922), and 5-6 (1924 - 1928). The level of pianism required in these works is extreme, to the extent that the scores ask for notes beyond the standard range of the keyboard. Much of Protopopov's piano music is written on three staves, rather than two. Protopopov loved sequences and frequently applied them to single harmonic complexes. As all of these complexes are based on the tritone; this leads to extended passages of suspended harmonic movement. The effect of it is similar to that of advanced heavy metal rock music, a coincidental resemblance that is punched up by Protopopov's tendency to work with short, repetitive rhythmic units over long periods. Protopopov also utilized unbarred measures, birdcall like figures that anticipate the work of Messiaen and even marked one passage in the Third Sonata "dolce, indeterminato."

The rest of Protopopov's known output consists of Russian language songs, mostly on Pushkin texts. A single chorus of folk song arrangements credits Boleslav Yavorsky as co-composer. In 1930, Protopopov presented his ideas at a Soviet conference on the Theory of Modal Rhythm chaired by music commissar Anatoly Lunacharsky, and was favorably received. This allowed for the publication of Protopopov's life's work, a two-volume expansion upon Yavorsky's theories entitled Elements of the Structure of Musical Speech. This theoretical treatise also addresses Protopopov's interest in microtonal music, and Protopopov proposes a 72-pitch scale. However, in 1931 another Soviet music conference was held that declared "Modal speech-rhythm" contrary to the needs of the revolution. His theory discredited, Protopopov seems not to have written another note of music. Protopopov worked on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, departing in 1943. Afterward, little if anything is known of Protopopov's life until notice of his death is given at age 61 in 1954. ~  Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

Peter







« Last Edit: July 14, 2008, 11:27:53 PM by pjme »

Offline Maciek

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2008, 02:56:34 PM »

Offline Maciek

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2008, 03:14:54 PM »
And another one.

Good idea, Vandermolen. It's still a bit of an effort to find Russian composers. Or Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, et cetera. Even in 2008.

I was certain I had started Ukrainian, Estonian and Latvian threads, since I remember making notes for them - but can't seem to find them now. So either this was on the old forum (quite likely; Christo, you should remember, I think you were active in those?), or I abandoned the project. But I really think it was on the old forum, since I also remember that the Lithuanian thread contained links to the other ones, and can't see those links now. (I also remember writing about Tarnopolski's Le vent des mots qu'il n'a pas dits somewhere, and can't find that either? :-\ And don't see a Yuri Laniuk thread, though I think I started one...? Damn, might I be having a senior moment? :o)

Anyway, here are the ones that exist right now:

Lithuanian composers

Belarusian composers

And once I'm done with some thorough searching, and make sure Estonian, Latvian and Ukrainian threads do not exist somewhere, I'll re-start them! $:)

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2008, 01:17:28 AM »
Damn, might I be having a senior moment? :o)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2008, 04:28:05 AM »
As for Ukrainians, I like the music of Boris Lyatoshinsky (1895-1968). A Miaskovsky type figure who had to keep revising his music (ie Symphony 3) under pressure from the regime. No 3 is evidently highly regarded in the Ukraine and righly so. it has considerable power and eloquence and is darkly moving, conveying a sense of struggle and hard-won victory. there is a cycle of Lyatoshinsky's symphonies on Marco Polo (5 symphonies on three CDs) and there was a russian disc cycle (not so well recorded) and an individual (vg) CPO CD with Symphony 4 and 5 on. Marco Polo would be my recommendation (Ukrainian State SO, Theodore Kuchar).
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Offline tab

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2008, 05:43:39 AM »
I can upload an archive with 4 pieces of Tarnopolsky recorded live. It's about 100 MB.

Offline edward

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2008, 07:23:50 AM »
One little-known Russian composer I find strangely fascinating is Alexei Stanchinsky, who produced a few piano works in what I suppose might be called a Bach-cum-Scriabinesque style before going insane and killing himself in his mid-20s. The second sonata (plus a four-voice canon) shows up in Thomas Ades' multi-composer recital on EMI, and there is also a rather tepid Marco Polo disc played by Daniel Blumenthal, and a more energetic (if perhaps lacking in subtlety) Etcetera recital from Nikolai Fefilov.

Anyone else here heard this composer, and have an opinion?
« Last Edit: July 15, 2008, 07:25:43 AM by edward »
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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2008, 11:12:26 AM »
One little-known Russian composer I find strangely fascinating is Alexei Stanchinsky, who produced a few piano works in what I suppose might be called a Bach-cum-Scriabinesque style before going insane and killing himself in his mid-20s. The second sonata (plus a four-voice canon) shows up in Thomas Ades' multi-composer recital on EMI, and there is also a rather tepid Marco Polo disc played by Daniel Blumenthal, and a more energetic (if perhaps lacking in subtlety) Etcetera recital from Nikolai Fefilov.

Anyone else here heard this composer, and have an opinion?

I've heard Stanchinsky, several years ago one local pianist, Aleksandar Madzar, played few of his pieces in a recital (prelude en mode lydique and some etudes) and got me quite interested but Fefilov disc was unavailable at that time and I never followed it up. I do have some of his Preludes on Jenny Lin disc, those are from 1907-08 and they are very beautiful, more early Scriabin than Bach. As for an opinion, I don't yet have a strong one since haven't heard any of his major pieces (if 'major' can be used for someone who died in mid 20s). Should finally get Fefilov ::)

Stanchinsky's Prelude en mode lydique (1908) if anyone is interested
http://www.mediafire.com/?ovfjdz0xt3y     

Drasko

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2008, 11:15:04 AM »
And then there is Sergei Protopopov ...

I'm interested but is there anything available on CD apart from 2nd Piano Sonata?

Offline some guy

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2008, 12:33:01 PM »
I can upload an archive with 4 pieces of Tarnopolsky recorded live. It's about 100 MB.

Please do, if it's something other than Kassandra, Eindruck-Ausdruck II, Echoes of the Passing Day, and Jesu, Your Deep Wounds.

Well, how self-centered of me. Just because I have those four doesn't mean et cetera.

So yeah, please do.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2008, 01:07:53 PM »
 Nikolai Kapustin eats all of those for breakfast and then some.

pjme

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2008, 01:17:29 PM »
That cannot be healthy.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2008, 04:05:11 PM »
On 27th January this year the American Symphony Orchestra under the ever-enterprising Leon Botstein was scheduled to play Vladimir Shcherbachev's Symphony No.2(1922-26) , a work described by the British expert on Russian music David Fanning as "moumental apocalyptic". Can't find a review of the concert online.

Shcherbachev(1889-1952) was a pupil of Steinberg and Liadov, wrote 5 symphonies, taught at the Leningrad Conservatory and admired Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk'. Absolutely nothing by him appears to be on disc but if Botstein has taken the trouble to learn the work it must have something going for it :)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Lesser known Russian/Soviet composers
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2008, 10:51:20 PM »
I can upload an archive with 4 pieces of Tarnopolsky recorded live. It's about 100 MB.

Please, please do! :D

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