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Ukraine Composers Series Set 1 - Polsky, Et Al


Release Date: 03/29/2005 
Label:  Angelok   Catalog #: 7710/11   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ilya PolskyVladimir PodgornyAlexander MamontovGrigory Tsitsaluk,   ... 
Performer:  Boris MichaevMykola OstrovskyBogodar Kotorovich
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 23 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





The names of fully half of the composers on this release meant nothing to me, so I was intensely curious about its contents. As it turns out, much of the material is all too representative of the Soviet Era musical bureaucracy and its ruthless quest for uniformity, though there are some attractive gems scattered amidst the shiny glass.


Let’s start with the glass, first. Polsky’s Overture is a clichéd example of the bland “festive overture” that many composers wrote to stay safe in Stalinist times; and Nicholai Stetsun’s Youth Read more Overture is more of the same, only worse. The Domra Concerto of Vladimir Podgorny is in turn the faceless musical equivalent of a tourist postcard. Mamontov’s Concert Polonaise is better, a bit orchestrally garish but with a wistful melancholy that the Ukrainians know so well. Grigori Tsitsaluk’s Elegie is a five minute nonentity chiefly remarkable for revealing that the old-fashioned, watery tone of Soviet brass still survives in certain geographical areas. If you’ve ever wondered whether the brass sound of all those “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Academic Radio and Television Large Symphony Orchestra” style groups of the 1950s and 1960s was strictly a matter of poor engineering and antiquated equipment, wonder no longer.


But Anatoli Gaydenko’s Kursky Karagody is a step up: a clever re-combination of folk materials that throws a handful of astringent harmonies, some unexpected key shifts, and graceful orchestral touches into the rhapsodic mold. Vitali Gubarenko is still more interesting. Of his three works presented here, I prefer the Chamber Symphony No. 2, an uneasy piece whose alternately regretful and bitter second half brings to mind Berg and Bartók. His more celebratory Kupalo and Zaporozhtsy are orchestrally brilliant but unmemorable exercises.


The best of the lot is Dmitri Klebanov, who the liner notes inform us was born in 1907 and held various conducting positions while teaching musical theory at Kharkov Conservatory. What we’re not told is that he was a relatively young and promising composer in the 1930s, who drew mixed attention to himself by writing a “Baba Yar” symphony a decade before Shostakovich. (We’re also not informed that he ever died—which he did, in 1987.) The Baba Yar led a very nervous Ukrainian composer’s union to throw Klebanov to the wolves during the next Stalin-inspired purge. He was publicly denounced as, among other things, an American spy, and only a visit by his wife to highly-placed Kremlin officials apparently saved him from lengthy imprisonment.


Klebanov’s musical language was not dissimilar to that of Tubin or Bartók, with its mixture of abstracted folk influence, extended tonality, and constant inventiveness; though he understandably avoided major musical statements of a personal nature after his partial rehabilitation, to avoid anything that could be construed as a political commentary. His Suite No. 2 combines four movements with deliberately strident, neo-Baroque vigor, and a lovely, desolate “Romance.” The four Preludes and Fugues clearly possess background stories not revealed by the composer. The first has a meditative, frieze-like beauty, while the second is circus-blatant and sarcastic. The third, given largely to the strings, is a deeply felt threnody, and the fourth is a motoric finale whose acerbic edge is momentarily halted for a heavy-hearted remembrance of the opening movement.


The Kharkov Philharmonic is at best marginally in the professional leagues. I have heard several regional Hungarian orchestras live that frankly displayed better technical proficiency; and the less said about blending within sections or balancing among them, the better. The musicians do keep together for the most part, but to what extent Vakhtang Jordania’s cautious conducting is responsible for this is hard to say.


The liner notes focus on the orchestra and the conductor. Short one-paragraph date/employment bios are provided on most composers, but Mamontov doesn’t rate anything more than his name. Engineering is poor, a combination of distant miking on the brass, constricted sound in climaxes, and odd highlighting—the solo violin featured in Gubarenko’s Chamber Symphony No. 2 actually sounds slightly louder than the orchestra.


Still, for the Klebanov, I’d say this set is worth the price, and both Gaydenko and Gubarenko help. Let’s hope Angelok will turn its attention to some of the finer symphonic composers of the Ukraine next, from Liatoshinsky to modern times.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Overture by Ilya Polsky
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
2. Concerto for Domra by Vladimir Podgorny
Performer:  Boris Michaev (Domra)
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
3. Concert Polonaise by Alexander Mamontov
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
4. Elegie for Horn and Strings by Grigory Tsitsaluk
Performer:  Mykola Ostrovsky (French Horn)
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
5. Preludes and Fugues (4) by Dmitri Klebanov
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; Kharkov, Ukraine 
6. Youth Overture by Nikolai Stetsun
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
7. Kursky Karagody by Anatoly Gaydenko
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Kharkov, Ukraine 
8. Kupalo by Vitaly Gubarenko
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Ukraine 
9. Chamber Symphony no 2 by Vitaly Gubarenko
Performer:  Bogodar Kotorovich (Violin)
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Ukraine 
10. Zaporozhtsy: Choreographic Scenes by Vitaly Gubarenko
Performer:  Bogodar Kotorovich (Violin)
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Ukraine 
11. Suite for Strings no 2 by Dmitri Klebanov
Conductor:  Vakhtang Jordania
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; Kharkov, Ukraine 

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