Welcome to my website on 20th century Soviet Composers: composers who LIVED
and COMPOSED in the Soviet era (from 1918).
This does NOT imply that these composers are/were in favour of the Soviet regime.
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New Alexi Matchavariani CDs
On 23rd of September 2013 Alexei Matchavariani passed this centenary treshold of time. On
this occasion of the 100-year anniversary of Alexi Machavariani a book on this composer was issued. Manana Kordzaia wrote this book and Alexei's son Vakhtang was the editor.
Matchvariani, born on 23 September 1913 in Gori, a pioneer of modern music in Georgia and
one of the most important composers of his homeland, died on New Year's Eve 1995 in Tbilissi.
Georgian folk music was always of the greatest importance for this composer. In his first
works, composed during the 1930s, he treated the rhythmical and melodic elements of Georgian
folksongs. But the progressive tendencies of the Soviet contemporary music of that time also
influenced his work. Matchavariani's style is thus shown to be a polystylistic dialogue,
a mixture of traditional Georgian music and contemporary compositional techniques.
On December 12, 2013 a Matchavariani birthday concert was held at the Mariinski Theatre of St. Petersburg.
Liana Isakadze performed Matchavariani's Violin Concerto with the Mariinsky theater Symphony Orchestra, conducted by
Sano issued a 2 CD-set on this occasion a 2 CD-set. This set contains Matchavariani's:
- Piano Concerto
- Violin Concerto
- Cello Concerto
- Symphony No. 4
Utrecht String Quartet
The Utrecht String Quartet is internationally known for its versatility and dynamism.
In 2013 MDG issued a CD with Tchaikovsky's
String Quartet No. 3 opus 30 and Children's Album opus 39 (MDG 903 1798-6).
Tchaikovsky composed his third string quartet in January/February 1876.
The premiere was held at the home of Nikolai Rubinstein on 2 March and the first public performance followed on 18 March.
Tchaikovsky composed his Children's Album for piano. The instrumentation of this opus for string quartet by Rostislav Dubinsky,
the first violinist of the famous Borodin Quartet until 1976, lends it a special significance in the composer's oevre. The coloration
makes one feel that one has been spirited off to the fantastic fairy-tale world of the Nutcracker ballet.
Earlier MDG issued volume 1 of Tchaikovsky's complete string quartets, performed by the Utrecht String Quartet. Tchaikovsky composed his First String Quartet
in D major opus 11 in 1871. The second movement, the famous Andante cantabile, is the most accessible of Tchaikovsky's three string quartets. The more complex Second String Quartet in F major opus 22, written
in December 1873 and january 1874 introduces a number of formgiving elements. These two string quartets represent the best of Tchaikovsky, for they incorporate his entire potential in imagination, technique and feeling.
Another MDG-release with a performance of the Utrecht String Quartet is a CD with Grechaninov's String Quartets Nos. 3 & 4 (MDG 603 1388-2).
The Third Quartet, like its two predecessors, was awarded a prize in the competition of the Petrograd Society of Chamber Music (the
Belyayev Prize). The score of the quartet was printed in 1923. Not long before this, in March 1923, the Third Quartet received its first performance from manuscript in Petrograd.
The Fourth Quartet in F major, composed in 1929 in Paris, is Grechaninov's last and perhaps most perfect composition in this genre.
Glazunov composed his First String Quartet at the age of sixteen while still at school.
The Quartet was given its public performance in the autumn of 1882, after having been presented at one of Belyayev's Friday evening soirees. While the influence of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov is still
evident, in his treatment of the motivic and thematic material and the firmal aspects, the young man shows himself to have been not only a high talented artist but also
a composer with an alltogether individual instinct, in whose work the sophisticated blending of Russian folk and Classical elements that characterized his later works was already clearly in evidence.
The Seventh String Quartet is one of Glazunov's last works. He composed it in 1930 on Paris, where he had been living since leaving the Soviet Union in 1928. It seems as if he wanted to encapsulate his
homesickness in music, at all events, this work is a reminiscence of his all too distant native land. (MDG 603 1736-2)
Heino Eller Complete Piano Music
Toccata Classics issued 3 CDs with piano music composed by Heino Eller. The Estonian Heino Eller
(1887–1970) is probably best known as the teacher of Arvo Pärt – but he was a prolific and
original composer in his own right. His substantial output for piano – this series will contain
seven CDs – was written over a period of six decades and thus reflects a range of styles.
Taking the lyricism of Chopin and Grieg as its starting point, it combines the influence of
Estonian folksong, Scriabin’s troubled harmonies, the epic northern colouring of Sibelius and,
at times, Prokofiev’s motoric energy into an attractively individual manner.
Volume 1 (TOCC0119) contains:
- Preludes, Book 1
- Six Pieces (‘Estonian Suite’)
- Toccata in B minor
- Dance in B minor
- In the Character of a Dance
- The Bells
- Piano Sonata No. 2
As both composer and teacher Heino Eller
was one of the founders of the classical tradition in his native Estonia. Yet his copious
output for piano – some 200 works –is largely unknown, an omission this series of seven CDs
seeks to redress. Volume Two presents compositions from six decades: charming romantic
miniatures, virtuoso showpieces, expressionist preludes and quirky folk-pieces. The main
item is his Theme and Variations from 1939 – one of his best works for piano, but not published
or recorded before now.
Volume 2 (TOCC0132) contains:
- Sonatina in F sharp minor
- Eight Pieces
- Allegro con fuoco
- Episode from Revolutionary Times
- Sostenuto in G minor
- Allegretto moderato in C minor
- Chanson triste
- Andante in E major
- Larghetto in A major
- Preludes, Book III
- Moderato assai (Theme and Variations)
- Estonian Dance
The central works of Volume Three are the Ten Lyric Pieces, mirroring the tragic loss of
Eller’s Jewish wife, murdered during the Nazi occupation, and Fourth Sonata, a late masterpiece
that sums up a life’s work. The three Studies here offer a glimpse of Eller’s early virtuosic
pursuits, and the five Preludes showcase his endeavours in an expressionist idiom.
Volume 3 (TOCC0161) contains:
- Ten Lyric Pieces
- Study in A flat major
- Study in G flat major
- Study in G flat major
- Piano Sonata No. 4
Boris Tishchenko's Symphony No. 2
Northern Flowers issued Tishchenko's Symphony No. 2, a symphony, a recording of this symphony was not for sale for a long time.
Tishchenko completed this symphony in 1964, it is a milestone composition in the composer’s heritage.
The symphony is based on a cycle of four poems written in 1921 by Marina Tsvetraeva and dedicated to the personality of Marina Mniszek. To these four poems, Tishchenko added one more written by Tsvetaeva also in 1921, related to the cycle in its general sense and summarizing its content. The second symphony contains five movements:
1. Presto (13 minutes)
2. Presto risoluto (7 minutes)
3. A piacere (3 minutes)
4. Andantino (9 minutes)
5. Andante sostenuto (18 minutes)
Performers are the State Karelian Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Petrozavodsk Conservatory Choir, conducted by Tchivzhel.
Vainberg's Symphonies Nos. 6 and 19
Vainberg's Symphony No. 6 is one of his lesseer-known symphonies. Neos issued a recording of this Symphony together with Vainberg's Sinfonietta No. 1 from 1948 in a live recording made during the Bregenz Festival 2010. It is the first volume of a Vainberg-serie.
The earnest idiom of the Weinberg's sixth symphony for for boys’ choir and orchestra may have been influenced not only by the Second World War, but also by the persecution of the Jews and Weinberg’s own imprisonment under Stalin.
On 12 November 1963 the work was given its première in Moscow, with Kyrill Kondrashin conducting the Moscow Philharmonic and the boys’ choir of the Moscow Choral School.
Recently Naxos released Vainberg's Symphony No. 19. This symphony marks ‘Bright May’ as the month in which the Great Patriotic War came to an end, but expressed with ominous apprehension as well as celebration.
Vainberg’s 26 symphonies are seen today as a substantial continuation of the Russian tradition.
The last track of this CD is Vainberg's 21 minutes lasting "The Banners of Peace" opus 143. The Banners of Peace subsumes traditional and revolutionary songs to create an extrovert work which avoids the bombast of propaganda.
Performers are the St. Petersburg State Symphony, conducted by Lande.
New Alexi Matchavariani CDs
Recently four new CD-sets with works by the Georgian composer Alexi Matchavariani have been issued.
Geocell/Sano/Muza issued a 2 CD-set with Alexi Matchavariani's Symphonies Nos. 1, 3 and 5, the third movement of Symphony No. 7
the Festival Overture and the Georgian Festival Overture. Vakhtang Matchavariani conducts the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Symphony No. 1
and the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra in Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5. The third movement of Symphony No. 7 in a performance by
the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre Choir and Orchestra and Both Overtures by the Georgian National Symphony Orchestra.
Pirosmani, ballet-poem (1992) by the Tblisi State Opera and Ballet Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Vakhtang Matchavariani.
It is a recording by Radio Muza of the world premiere on 10 June 2012.
Sano issued a 2 CD-set with Alexi Matchavariani's The Knight in the Tiger Skin, ballet in two acts after Rustaveli.
Vakhtang Matchavariani conducts the Symphony Orchestra of Ministry of Culture of the USSR.
The fourth CD-set is a 3 CD-set with Othello, ballet in 4 acts after Shakespeare. The Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vakhtang Matchavariani.
The third CD contains the World Premiere of the Suite of the ballet "The Taming of the Shrew", performed by the Georgian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vakhtang Matchavariani.
After the formation of the Glazunov String Quartet in 1919, in 1921 Glazunov composed for them
the Sixth String Quartet in B flat major op. 106, a truly monumental work. It reflects
everything that makes Glazunov's music unique: absolute formal control, intellectual
concentration, profundity and finely nuanced tone colours. The expansive, almost symphonic
first movement (Allegro) is cheerful throughout and without dramatic climaxes. Clarity and
balance rule. Seeming to develop from the Russian spirit, the second movement (Intermezzo
rusticano) depends mainly on an original asymmetrical metre reminiscent of folk music in
the Balkans, and precisely for th at reason functions as an extremely animated scherzo.
After the deep-felt lyricism of the Andante piangevole, the composer presents the full
range of his imagination in the final movement (Allegro), exploiting the tonal potential
of the string quartet in ten variations. A great arch stretches from the dry unison
presentation of the theme over several colourful tone pictures to the cheerfully impetuous
giocoso of the final variation, in which additional motivic allusions recall the opening
movement and span the arch back to the beginning of the work.
In 1885-1886 Glazunov composed his Five Novelettes opus 15. They comprise dance-like character
pieces in the styles of various countries, interrupted by an Interludium in modo antico (third
movement) as a point of rest in the middle of very lively musie. These attractive Novelettes
are among Glazunov's most popular works and are often performed.
The Utrecht String Quartet, one of the most
renowned chamber-music ensembles, is internationally known for its versatility and dynamism.
Resident in the Netherlands, the musical world of the Utrecht String Quartet is both borderless
and boundless. Its musicians adopt a vibrant, versatile approach to their chosen genre,
rejecting traditional »museum piece« interpretations out-of-hand. Even in the most traditional
works, they succeed time and again in discovering elements that can be interpreted anew.
However, it is their continual search for lost or forgotten repertoire and for their
collaboration with contemporary composers that has earned them such an excellent reputation
in the music world. International tours to countries such as the United States, Canada,
Australia and throughout Europe have demonstrated this versatility.
The Utrecht String Quartet made its debut in England at London's Conway Hall in April 2000.
It returned to London in 2003 to perform at the Wig more Hall, and has been a regular guest
in London ever since and was invited in February 2011 for their debut in United States to
the Library of Congress, Washington.
In the Netherlands, the USQ plays in all the important chamber-music series, such as those
at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, at Vredenburg in Utrecht and the Doelen in Rotterdam.
In addition to its extensive programs of concerts, the USQ also
performs for radio and television and for CD recordings. A sizeable collection of its CDs has
appeared under the MDG label. These recordings have received excellent reviews in all the
well-known musical periodicals such as The Gramophone, the BBC Music Magazine, the
USA Fanfare and the German periodical Fono Forum.
Ekaterina Mechetina is a fine pianist. She became a
pupil of the Central School of Music for the Moscow State Conservatory. After finishing her
schooling, where she was taught by T. L. Koloss, she began her studies at the Moscow
Conservatory under the tuition of V. P. Ovtchinnikov. For her postgraduate studies, she was taught by the famous Sergey Leonidovich Dorensky.
Ekaterina Mechetina plays
Sergei Rachmaninov: Variations on a Theme by Corelli
and Rachmaninov's piano transcriptions
of works by Bach, Mendelssohn, Bizet, Schubert, Tchaikovsky,
Mussorsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Kreissler
Fuga Libera FUG 513
Ekaterina Mechetina was a pupil of the Central School of Music of the Moscow State
Conservatory. Finishing school she became a student of the Moscow Conservatory. Vladimir
Ovchinnikov was her teacher. For the postgraduate studies Sergei Dorensky took her to his
class. At the age of ten she won a piano with the Mozart Prize. In 2002 she became
prizewinner in Vercelli, in 2003 in Pinerolo and in 2004 in Cincinnati. Rodion Shchedrin
entrusted her the performance of his new piano works. One of them was Piano Concerto No. 6
whose premiere she performed in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.
Boris Tishchenko Dies at 71
Boris Tishchenko died December 9, 2010. And now Boris Ivanovich is
not with us any more. He had been painfully ill for a long time, but nevertheless, the news of
his decease came unexpected and shocked those who knew him closely, and those who just listened
to his music and loved it.
A giant epoch of the 20th century’s symphony music has gone with Tischenko. Of the music that
reflected thoughts and expectations of many generations, of a profound art reaching across the
borders of countries and civilizations. We will try to publish, and to make available to everyone soonest, many works of Boris
Ivanovich; we will create a real archive of the composer. This is how we are going to express
our love and immense respect to him.
Farewell, Boris Ivanovich, and rest in peace. Yuri Serov
Fortunately several of Boris Tishchenko's works have been issued. Here is a selection.
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Igor Blazhkov (cond)
Boris Tischenko (piano) Harp Concerto:
Leningrad Chamber Orchestra
E. Serov (conductor)
Irina Donskaya (harp)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9963
Dante Symphony No. 1:
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Yuri Kochnev (conductor) Dante Symphony No. 2:
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolay Alexeev (conductor)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9961
Dante Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolai Alekseev (conductor)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9974
Dante Symphony No. 4
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Verbitsky (conductor)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9969
Sonata for Cello solo
Sonata for Piano and Bells
Sergey Roldugin (cello)
Boris Tischenko (piano)
Alexander Mikhaylov (bells)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9968
Leningrad State Philharmonic Academic SO
V. Fedotov (conductor)
Viktor Liberman (violin) Cello Concerto
Leningrad Chamber Orchestra
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Edward Serov (conductor) Suzdal:
Kirov Theatre Orchestra
Igor Blazhkov (conductor)
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9967
The Compozitor Publishing House, St Petersburg issued a double-CD with the Piano Sonatas 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9 of Boris Tishchenko, performed by
the pianist Vladimir Polyakov. Boris Tishenko has the command of original and utterly individual stylistic features marking his links with absolutely different cultural traditions.
On the first hand, this is the music of the far ages - Renaissance and Baroque, evoking the linear-polyphonic logic - the base of Tishchenko's musical construction. This exact particularity makes for the stern rational element and strict
order with nothing over-indulgent, when the author's fantasy reveals in full swing. Piano Sonatas are the special sphere in Boris Tishchenko's creation.
They may be truly called symphonies for piano. The author seems to crush all the existing bounds of traditions and rules, resorting to the maximum dynamical range, combining transparent
monody and deafening clusters. Emotional square is broad here, evoking images of the old Russian frescoes, romantic expression and lyrical tenderness.
Fuga Libera issued a CD (FUG 702) with Boris Tishchenko'sConcerto for violin, piano and string orchestra opus 144 and his Dante-Symphony No. 3
"Hell: Circles 7-9" opus 123 No. 4.
Tishchenko composed his Double Concerto for violin and piano with string orchestra as a tribute and birtday gift to his friend Jakov Evgenevich Ioffe. The concerto is structured on
two different levels. The first is a level of a comprehensive symphonic dramaturgy with a significant volume of sound space. The second is a chamber ensemble level which demands a particular precision in texture balance and polyphonic logic.
Tishchenko has managed to incorporate, within a cyclical structure, several layers of execution within one work. The soloists have been given parts that are both arduous and technically interesting, allowing them to flaunt the ambit of
their skills. In this Double Concerto Tishchenko emphatically shows his faith in Bach's formula: Music is a dialogue of the Soul with God (which he always repeats to his students. The performers of this Double Concerto are Victoria Postnikova (piano),
Alexander Rozhdestvensky (violin), and the String Orchestra of St. Petersburg, conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky.
Tishchenko started his choral-symphonic cycle, consisting of five Dante-symphonies at the end of the 1990-ies. This macro-cycle includes separate works, each of which corresponds to a particular part of Dante's Divina Comedia.
Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
Kabalevsky's Works for piano
Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky was born in St. Petersburg on 30th December 1904. Having studied at the Moscow Conservatory
with both Nicolay Myaskovsky and Alexander Goldenweiser, graduating in composition (1929) then piano (1930),
he was appointed a senior lecturer there in 1932 and made a full professor seven years later.
Naxos issued two CDs with works for piano, performed by the Brazilian-born pianist Alexandre Dossin, who was awarded both the First
Prize and the Special Prize at the Martha Argerich Internation Piano Competition in 2003.
The first Naxos CD (8.570822) contains his three Piano Sonatas and two Piano Sonatinas.
Abstract instrumental pieces feature
prominently in Kabalevsky's earlier years, with the piano sonatas giving a good (though by
no means inclusive) account of his development over two decades. Not the least of their
attractions is the acuity with which they reflect the spirit of the time without venturing
into overtly radical or inherently reactionary musical territory, and thereby enhancing the
repertoires of pianists from both inside and outside the Soviet Union. Indeed, the last two
sonatas have been championed by such contrasting pianists as Vladimir Horowitz and Benno
The First Sonata (1927) is among Kabalevsky's earliest published works, with the influence
of Prokofiev seldom far away. Along with the 24 Preludes immediately preceding it, the Second
Sonata (1945) represents the peak of Kabalevsky's writing for piano. Completed immediately
afterwards, the Third Sonata (1946) could hardly provide a greater contrast.
In addition to the three sonatas, Kabalevsky also wrote two crisply neo-classical sonatinas
that each provide a telling foil to his larger-scale symphonic works from the early 1930s.
The second Naxos CD (8.570976) contains his Four Preludes opus 5, Twenty-Four Preludes opus 38
and Six Preludes and Fugues opus 61.
The set of Four Preludes (1927) is
among Kabalevsky's earliest published works. As with the First Piano Sonota, the influence of
Prokofiev is never far away yet their technical and motivic resource unerringly point towards
what was to come.
Dedicated to his teacher Myaskovsky, the 24 Preludes (1943-1944) immediately predates the
Second Piana Sonata and likewise finds his writing at its most distinctive. The undoubted
modern precedent was that of Shostakovich, which also draws on the Cbopin model in altemating
major and minor keys while following the cycle of fifths.
Kabalevsky additionally derives the melodic material of each prelude from folk-songs, as if
to declare his Russianness in time of war.
Kabalevsky never followed Shostakovieh in essaying preludes and fugues in all the major and
minor keys, though the Six Preludes and Fugues (1958-1959) gives a fair indication of what
might have resulted.
Information on Shostakovich
Undeniable Dmitri Shostakovich is the greatest Soviet composer.
Here you can find a complete Shostakovich' opus list.
You can check by opusnumber and by opusname.
The lists offer links to CD-recordings. So you can see all Shostakovich works which have been released in CD-format.
Many of these CDs are linked to reviews of these CDs.
After issuing CDs with recordings of Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6 (PTC 5186 068, Symphony No. 11 (PTC 5186 076),
No. 8 (PTC 5186 084) and Nos. 5 & 9 (PTC 5186 096) Pentatone Music
released a CD with recordings of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15 and fragments of the Hamlet Suite opus 32 (PTC 5186 331),
performed by the Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Mikhail Pletnev.
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 is a symphony of quotes. Quotes from both his own works and those of others appear during the course of the movement like flashes of light, even so, they are more or less truly integrated into the music. Yet the quotes (especially those from works by Beethoven, Rossini and Wagner) do not offer the listener true clarity: rather, they present him with new puzzles as they are ripped out of their own context, and are now forced to find a "home" in more or less foreign climes. The humorous entrance of the first movement reminds one of numerous earlier works by Shostakovich, full of esprit and wit. Just take, for instance, the Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings, or the outer movements of the Symphony No. 9. Nevertheless, the music quickly becomes increasingly enigmatic: after the almost timid introductory flute theme and fanfare-like motifs, all of a sudden a quote from Rossini's William Tell overture crashes in out of the blue.
In the second movement a solemn chorale played by the winds paves the way, until it is relieved by an expansive cello solo presenting a twelve-tone series. A funeral march starts up, which is steadily and tenaciously driven by the brass and kettledrums to a tremendous climax, until the chorale, this time in the strings, determines the remainder of the movement.
The extremely short third movement, which follows on attacca, is an eerie medley of tunes, during the course of which a violin solo - representing the"grim reaper" - plays macabre dance music. This is a Mahler-like danse macabre in potential, containing the composer's musical monogram, the notes D - E flat - C - B, and other quote-like references to his own fourth and tenth symphonies.
Finally, the Finale begins in a significant mannerwith precise quotes from Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde, before Shostakovich presents a song theme of bewitching beauty. A passacaglia comes to the fore, reminding one of the invasion theme from his Leningrad Symphony, slowly intensifies into a veritable hurricane, and culminates, following a violently crashing chord, in a complete breakdown. The music falls to pieces, disintegrates; thematic shreds wander disoriented through an apocalyptic landscape. Finally, the percussion rattles like a musical skeleton above a pedal point with an open fifth.
The Symphony No. 15 is accompanied by an early work of Shostakovich's, a selection from the incidental music written for Hamlet. In 1932, Shostakovich composed some music with theatrical effects for a production of Hamlet by Nikolai Akimov, who nonetheless managed to "cure" the subject matter of any dramatic potential. In fact, in his version the drama turned somewhat into a farce. The director had developed a second story around the original plot, with a hard-drinking eponymous hero. And thus Shostakovich's incidental music includes titles that are not suited to the classical storyline of Hamlet. Mikhail Pletnev made an individual selection for this recording. Thus No.2 (Funeral march), No. 5 (Pantomime of the actors), No. 6 (Procession), No. 8 (Feast), No. 9 (Ophelia's song), and No. 12 (Tournament) are missing from the Suite (1932).ln exchange, the "Dinner Music'; the "Monologue of the Claudius'; as well as the "Signals of Fortinbras" have been added from the incidental music, as weil as the "Gigue'; which is taken from other stage music written in 1954.
Channel Classics issued a CD (CCS SA 26007)
with arrangements of Shostakovich's String Quartets Nos. 2 & 4 for
string orchestra. Double bass player Marijn van Prooijen arranged both string quartets.
Amsterdam Sinfonietta plays these fine works in an amazing performance.
Amsterdam Sinfonietta occupies a unique position on the Dutch music scene as the only professional string orchestra in the Netherlands.
It is regularly invited to perform in concert halls throughout the world as one of the very few
largescale string ensembles on the international scene. The ensemble consists of 22 chamber
musicians; all string players (six first violins, six seconds, four violas, four cellos, two
basses). Its repertoire covers a variety of styles, extending from the Baroque repertoire to
contemporary works. The main focus lies on string ensemble repertoire, including chamber music
performed in string orchestra format.
On 2 September 1944, Shostakovich wrote the last note of his String Quartet No. 2 in a
country house near Ivanovo. Two months later, the Beethoven-quartet played the première.
The second string quartet was created after the famous second piano trio and was written at
a terrific pace. Shostakovich dedicated this work to his good friend Vissarion Shebalin,
the director of the Moscow Conservatory at that time. The piece opens with an energetic
Ouverture that in its form and counterpoint has been entirely fashioned after the
forementioned classic examples. This quartet is primarily exceptional because of the
longest and slow movement of the piece. This second movement consists of a Romance enclosed
by two recitatives. These long and grievous episodes of the solo violin in recitative form
are accompanied by static, low chords. One can directly associate this movement with
sacred music, in which the recitative technique is so common. In the Waltz, a soft legato
theme develops, first in the celli and later in the violins, over a waltz pattern
to a turbulent percussion part full of changes of pace. The movement concludes in pianissimo
with the return to a clear three-four time in which the altos 'turn oft the light'.
The last movement, Theme with variations, starts from an adagio.
Per variation, both the tempo and the drama increase. The theme ultimately simmers down
in an adagio in E flat.
In 1949 Shostakovich finished his String Quartet No. 4, although the premiere of this piece
was not heard until 1953. In the years after the war the government got increasingly
involved in the cultural world. The Central Committee published a resolution in which clear
guidelines for modern art were formulated. As a result of this, the composers union of Moscow
organized a conference. At this gathering, Shostakovich was forced to read a speech in which
he distanced himself from his oeuvre. Khrennikov, the new chairman of the composers' union
branded Shostakovich as a 'formalist' and a 'cosmopolitan'. Shortly afterwards, Shostakovich
even had to discontinue his work at the Conservatories of Moscow and Leningrad.
Shostakovich withdrew from muscial life. Besides film music he wrote a song cycle, From
Jewish folk poetry and his fourth string quartet.
The fourth quartet has a melancholic and sober character. Throughout the entire opening movement
a pedal tone is audible, with above it strikingly varying fifths and fourths, resulting in the
movement's serene atmosphere. In the next movement, a warm and melodic theme dominates in the
first violin part. At the end of this movement, the first violin joins the other parts in a
number of still choral episodes that, meandering, dissolve into nothingness. Only in the
Allegretto and the final movement following without a pause, the Jewish character of the string
quartet truly manifests itself. The scale material and the rhythmic accents bare witness to
that. In this dramatic movement, the quartet reaches the highest degree of dissonance.
The movement concludes with a soft choral and pizzicati that end in the key of D major.
Onyx issued a very interesting CD with three works of Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by five top-musicians (Julian Rachlin, Janine Jansen, Yuri Bashmet, Mischa Maisky and Itamar Golan),
live recorded from the well-known Musikverein in Vienna.
The three works are Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor opus 8, his Piano Quintet in G minor opus 57 and
Five Pieces for two violins and piano in an arrangement by Lev Atovmian.
Shostakovich began to compose his First Piano Trio in August 1923 in the Crimea, where he was convalescing, and completed it soon afterwards in Petrograd.
The Trio is a compact work in a single movement, but containing a wide variety of tempos and musical characters in its well-crafted span.
The stimulus to write his Piano Quintet came to Shostakovich from the musicians of the Beethoven String Quartet,
who had asked him for a work which they could all play together. The work is scored very economically;
the full quintet is rarely employed (apart from in the frantic Scherzo) and the wide range of instrumental effects includes
such expedients as frequently having the piano play at the very top or very bottom of its register, making a musical virtue of its notorious inability to blend well with stringed instruments.
The source of the opening romantic Prelude of the Five Pieces for two violins and piano is Guitars, No. 15 from Shostakovich original film score for The Gadfly.
A lively Gavotte follows, this time from the incidental music to The Human Comedy. The lilting Elegy is The Panorama of Paris theme from The Human Comedy.
The Waltz appears in many Atovmian arrangements but the Shostakovich score remains elusive. The final movement, a gypsy-style Polka, does come from
the ballet The Limpid Stream, entitled Dance of the Milkmaid and the Tractor Driver.
Doremi Records issued the complete cycle of
Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartets performed by the legendary Beethoven Quartet.
Of these quartets, all but the first and last were premiered by the Beethoven String Quartet. The original
members were Dmitri
Tsyganov and Vassily Shirinsky (violin), Sergei Shirinsky (cello) and Vadim Borisovsky (viola). They have been
together as a quartet for 42 years. Shostakovich held this quartet in the highest esteem. Their interpretations were
authorized by Shostakovich. Their association started in 1938 when the Beethoven Quartet gave the Moscow premiere of the first String Quartet.
In the recordings presented by Doremi (DHR-7911-5), the first eight quartets are played by the original founding members. In the Quartes Nos. 9
and 10 Fedor Druzhinin is the violist, and from the 11th Nikolai Zabavnikov is the second violist. Quartet No. 15 has as its cellist Yevgeny Altman.
The playing of the Beethoven Quartet in these recordings is an example of chamber music making at its absolute best. The performances are
gutsy, lyrical or tubulent in turn, as demanded by the score. These performances truly speak and only two other ensembles approach them in this
repertoire, the Taneyev Quartet and the original Borodin Quartet.
If you are interested to see pictures of Dmitri Shostakovich and many other famous persons
then please check my DSCH-Gallery.
New Boris Tchaikovsky 2CD set
Many people - me included - have waited many years for a recording of Boris Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 2.
Now it is available, and - even better - combined with the other 5 String Quartets of this composer.
This double CD-set has been issued by Northern Flowers
(NF/PMA 9964/9965). It is a brand new recording: April 2008, recorded at the St. Catherine Lutheran Church of St. Peterburg.
The performers are Ilya Ioff and Elena Raskova (violin), Lydia Kovalenko (viola) and Alexey Massarsky (cello).
The string quartets were composed by Boris Tchaikovsky in 1954 (No. 1), 1961 (No. 2), 1967 (No. 3),
1972 (No. 4), 1974 (no. 5) and 1976 (No. 6). So he addressed the genre of string quartet for over three decades,
starting from his pre-Conservatory school years till 1976 when he finished his Sixth Quartet. The quartets may be considered
classics of the quartet genre in the 20th century. Boris Tchaikovsky never repeats himself in his creative solutions.
Each of the quartets is unique - as an image, as a reflection, as an artistic concept, as a structure,
and each one is a quite special step in understanding the genre.
Information on Boris Tchaikovsky
Relief issued in collaboration with the public non-profit organization, the
Boris Tchaikovsky Society the CD "Modern Russian Music for Winds" (Relief CR 991091):
A Tribute to Boris Tchaikovsky. On this CD three works of Boris Tchaikovsky: his Sextet, his Passacaglia and Fugue and the Suite "Anyuatu" for winds.
Furthermore recordings of works by
Klimov, Prokudin, Vershinin, Prassolova, Golovin and Prischepa.
Anyone familiar with the orchestral music of Boris Tchaikovsky (1925-1996)
can't help but notice his bright, fresh and expressive use of wind instruments.
Just think of the solo flute in Sebastopol Symphony; the charged, trumpet-like French homs
in the Piano Concerto; the cold glint of the flutes and clarinets in “The Wind of Siberia”;
or even whole movements of his compositions performed just by the wind section.
The Sextet for Winds and Harp was completed in 1990. Along with the Symphony with Harp,
written in 1993, the Sextet comprises the core of the composer's latest works.
It is symbolic that these two pieces complete his path as a composer.
The Sextet is filled with that mysterious, enlightened contemplation characteristic to
many “late” compositions of famous composers. The music of the Sextet is full of light,
not with the blinding noonday sun of Sebastopol Symphony, but with the soft rays of a
setting sun in autumn.
The exact completion date for Passacaglia and Fugue for Octet (comprised of flute, oboe,
c1arinet, French hom, violin, viola, cello, and double bass) is unknown. The manuscript
of this composition was discovered in the composer's archives after his death.
It is thought to have been written during the early years of his studies at the Moscow
Conservatory. The music of the Octet reveals the influence of Shostakovich, one of
Tchaikovsky's professors at the conservatory. Nonetheless, much of it also reflects
the young composer's own, more philosophical and introspective world view. This is reflected,
for example, in the detached, mysterious finale of the Passacaglia, and in the Fugue's first
theme, the charged intonation paradoxically compliments its almost flippant mood, the same
mood that often displays the deeply personal revelations seen in Tchaikovsky's later works.
In 1959-1960, Boris Tchaikovsky wrote the score to the short film “Anyuta”
(based on the short story of the same name written by A. Chekhov), directed by M. Anjaparidze.
Afterwards Tchaikovsky spoke positively of his own work, and this led the Boris Tchaikovsky
Society to begin searching through the archives of the Orchestra of Cinematography.
Luckily, the score, intended for its original performers
(2 flutes, c1arinet, bass-c1arinet, cello and piano), had not been lost, and was worthy
of the composer's own esteem.
Northern Flowers issued in collaboration with the public non-profit organization, the
Boris Tchaikovsky Society a CD (NF/PMA 9946) with Boris Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, composed in 1969, performed by Victor Pikaizen and the
Odense Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edward Serov.
This Violin Concerto was dedicated to Viktor Pikaizen whose creative and personal relations with the composer started as early as in the 1950s, during his work at the Piano Trio.
In the Violin Concerto Boris Tchaikovsky wanted to convey the life of his father Alexander Martynovich Tchaikovsky, whom he loved very much and whom he lost too early (he was only 15 when his father died).
The Concerto's large one-movement composition is built without a traditional outward contrast. It is a state-of-mind concerto, bewitching the listeners and never letting them go from the first to the last sounds. The theme origination
and development processes are the core of the opus. Boris Tchaikovsky commented on the form of this opus: "The main theme is followed by a 'heap' of secondary themes, and that's about the form by and large. For some time, quite a long time, repetition is
not used in it as a matter of concept. But later, nearer to the end, everything begins to be repeated in another fashion ....".
CDs: Works of Soviet Composers
December 16, 2007 Rodion Shchedrin was born in Moscow. This 75th birthyear of
Rodion Shchedrin made
the German publisher Schott to issue a wonderful book on this composer who is one of the most
important composers of these days.
In 168 pages this book in hardcover gives a good look of the broad range of works composed by Shchedrin:
operas, ballets, film music, instrumental music, piano music and vocal music. The book contains many photographs and fragments of scores from events in the life of Shchedrin.
Comments of collegue-composers and friends show the personality of this composer. The book contains an opus list. It is translated from Russian into the German language. Because of the
huge amount of photographs and fragments of scores this book is interesting for those who have problems with reading German.
The saxophone was viewed as a 'suspicious' instrument in the former Soviet Union. The reason being that it belonged to the bourgeoisie and was associated with decadent jazz music. So serious composers did not write serious music for this instrument.
This changed in the nineteen sixtees and seventies, due to a group of young composers in Moscow. Among them Dmitri Smirnov,
Vladislav Shoot, Nikolai Korndorf and Faraj Karaev. The CD "The Soviet Saxophone" contains works of these composers for saxophone and piano: Dmitri Smirnov: Ballade opus 35 Dmitri Smirnov: Twelve Melancholic Waltzes opus 43B
Vladislav Shoot: Miniature Partita Faraj Karaev: Alla Valse Nikolai Korndorf: Monologue and Ostinato Sergei Prokofiev: Flute Sonata No. 2, transcribed for saxophone and piano
Performers are Filip Davidse (saxophone) and Naomi Tamura (piano).
A CDR with all ten symphonies of Sergei Slonimsky has been issued by The Compozitor Publishing House, St Petersburg.
In these symphonies Slonimsky make the whole European music history stand revived before us.
As the composer skilfully uses the device of musical hint, the listener is given the chance to come in touch with the countless treasures of both the Western
and Russian music, represented as either visible, or just absorbed substances, i.e. rhythmical and melodic formulas, genres and peculiar harmony fluctuations.
The composer als penetrates into the modern popular cultural stratum.
Slonimsky resorts to the serious and light genres for to show the contemporary intensity, its forceful currents.
The combat between two antagonistic realities, where the intrinsic thoughts and emotions are revealed instantaneously by the impress left upon them,
while the other sphere is stained in the false affected tones, borrowed somewhere at the pop music.
When you are interested in Soviet Composers then please check out the Soviet Composer's Page. You will find information on
important composers for instance Andrei Eshpai, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Aram Khachaturian, Nikolai Miaskovsky,
Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, Alfred Schnittke, Rodion Shchedrin, Boris Tchaikovsky, Boris Tishchenko and many others.
Catalogues as well as discographies.
If you can't find the Soviet Composer you are interested in then please let me know. I'll try to find some principal data on the
Soviet Composer you are interested in and publish these data.
If you have information on Soviet Composers not appearing on this site then please send this information to me by e-mail.
David Fanning wrote a fine essay on the Soviet Symphony on CD.
Here you find information on the composers and the works awarded with the Stalin Prize.
More fine CDs
Interested in more special CDs with performances of works by Shostakovich and other Soviet
composers then please check the special CDs pages on:
Many of your questions concern the availability of scores and CDs, WWW-addresses of companies releasing CDs with works of Soviet Composers,
the anthem of the former Soviet Union, etc. If you have questions please check some answers first.
Want List and Offers
I am looking for some recordings and books on these composers. If there is a chance that you can help me to find one of
these then please check out my want list.