KARABITS Three Concertos for Orchestra. SILVESTROV Elegie. Abschiedsserenade • Kirill Karabits, cond; Bournemouth SO • NAXOS 8.572633 (59:26)
Ivan Karabits was not the kind of big-name composer who would have come to the attention of Western music directors, and few indigenous recordings of his music have ever made it to these shores. This is regrettable, as Karabits was a composer who in different times would very likely have developed an internationalRead more reputation. Until his untimely death in 2002 at the age of 57, he was a leading musician in his native Ukraine, a tireless arts director, teacher, and spokesperson for Ukrainian music and musicians. As a composer he was much influenced by Shostakovich and—as was the Russian composer—by Mahler. Rimsky-Korsakov is significant in the mix in this composer’s orchestral works, as well.
However, the most direct influence on the three concertos for orchestra is Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin—friend and mentor to Karabits—whose first two (of five) single-movement works in this form served as models for the Ukranian composer. The concertos were written between 1980 and 1989, and like Shchedrin’s, are striking in the use of orchestral timbre, and in the deployment of a panoply of percussion and of unusual instruments like the harpsichord. They are at once easily accessible and intriguingly complex. Like their models, they are multisectional, with passages of intense brassy flamboyance and contrasting deep reflection or grief-tinged lyricism. The first of the concertos, Musical Gift to Kiev, is reminiscent of Respighi in its cinematic portrait of the city and its bells, though nothing so obviously representational as the Roman tone poems. The second concerto is even more abstract, with moments of endearing quirkiness confronting an implacable darkness, a central section of haunting bleakness, and an exuberant and oft-times screwball dance including a percussion display capped by orchestral clapping. The last of the concertos, subtitled Lamentation, was written on commission for the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra, and was one of the composer’s few chances to be performed in the West. He chose to commemorate two tragedies of 20th-century Ukrainian history: Stalin’s terror famine during the 1932–33 collectivization of farms, in which millions starved to death, and the Chernobyl reactor disaster. It is a work of raw power and unbearable poignancy, especially in the final passages of solo piano, solo violin, bells, flute, and soft moaning intonations by the players.
The two works by Karabits’s friend and compatriot, Valentin Silvestrov, conclude the program in an elegiac mode. Silvestrov, once an uncompromising modernist, displays here a post-modernist nostalgic romanticism. Both works are deeply touching compositions for strings written to memorialize Karabits’s passing. Elegie is a working out of ideas that Karabits was sketching during his final illness with some of Silvestrov’s own: a sort of dialog between old friends. Abschiedsserenade is a short two-movement lament written in Mahlerian expressive language.
The three concertos for orchestra are all premiere recordings which can be assumed authoritative as they are conducted by Karabits’s son, Kirill. He has been the music director of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra since 2009. The orchestra is in superb form, as they were in their recent recording, also with the younger Karabits, of Shchedrin’s last two concertos for orchestra (Naxos). Andrew Walton and Mike Clements do their usual magic in the concert hall of The Lighthouse, Poole, creating a full but detailed image of the orchestra, seemingly mid-way back. Dynamics are wide and percussion transients sharp. Andrew Burn provides informative notes on these little-known composers and works. This is an outstanding release of music with wide potential appeal that deserves to be better known.
Earth shatteringDecember 14, 2013By paul m. (simpsonville, SC)See All My Reviews"These concertos for orchestra are fantastic. If you love music that drives you higher and higher into sonic wonderland then this is for you. I cannot wait for more recordings of Karabits music. The Silvestroy pieces leave you floating and drifting in the clouds and are a welcome change from the Karabits sonics. I highly recommend this CD to anyone who loves to be alive."Report Abuse
A real findMay 6, 2013By David R. (Pine, CO)See All My Reviews"These are terrific Concertos for Orchestra, composed by conductor Kirill Karabits's father in the 1980s. They are tonal, imaginative and interesting, colorful and in every way enjoyable. They are each fairly short in duration (12 to 17 minutes), adding to their instant appeal. And it's so good to hear that Kirill was awake to make this recording after sleeping through his stint with Nicola Benedetti's Silver Violin album and turning in a dreary, antihistimine-fogged Tchaikovsky 2nd last year. Here he shows true inspiration, and, unsurprising, a real feel for and understanding of this music, doing his daddy proud. The Bournemouth Symphony plays magnificently here (other than some uncoordinated hand-clapping in one section) and Naxos's recording is superlative. This disc is a real find, very highly recommended. And Kirill: listen to this recording often...you do have what it takes when you put your heart into it."Report Abuse
Intriguing Modern Ukrainian WorksMay 5, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Here is a compact disk which should please anyone interested in new orchestral music which does not dive off the deep end into the cesspool of excessive dissonance or the black hole of atonality. Two late 20th century Ukrainian composers are featured here- Ivan Karabits and Valentin Silvestrov. Needless to say, I had no previous experience with their work, so it is a distinct pleasure to report that this Naxos disk is a real revelation and a solid listening experience. There are 3 orchestral concertos by Karabits on the program, each of which has a distinct character and flavor. There are alternating periods of exuberant orchestral power, pensive and introspective expositions of varying orchestral colors, and an overall mood of seriousness and honesty. Silvestrov's two short works (Elegie and Abschiedsserenade) exhibit a more subdued and poignant character than Karabits' 3 concertos, perhaps reflecting a sense of historical tragedy pervading the experience of Silvestrov's and Karabits' homeland. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under conductor Kirill Karabits (the CD notes do not say there is a relationship with the composer) plays with passion, commitment, and integrity, resulting in a strikingly effective sound world throughout the entire disk. The originality of the program on this new Naxos release may take some time to establish itself, but there is no reason to think it won't. Recommended as a great new direction to take in exploring modern orchestral music."Report Abuse