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The Sacred Spring Of Slavs

Salov / Stravinsky / Shamo
Release Date: 08/10/2010 
Label:  Analekta   Catalog #: 29932   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Igor ShamoIgor Stravinsky
Performer:  Serhiy Salov
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SHAMO Hutsulian Watercolors. STRAVINSKY-SALOV Le Sacre du printemps Serhiy Salov (pn) ANALEKTA AN 2 9932 (64:15)

GALYNIN Piano Concerto No. 1. SHOSTAKOVICH Chamber Symphony, op. 73a. USTVOLSKAYA Piano Concerto Read more class="BULLET12"> • Serhiy Salov (pn); Yuli Turovsky, cond; I Musici de Montréal ANALEKTA 9898 (74: 53)

Born in Ukraine in 1979, Serhiy Salov settles into mid-career blessed with two virtues that don’t always co-exist in the same performer. He’s got strong fingers that can etch out the most intricate passagework, clarify even the most complex textures, and knock out the knottiest rhythms with stunning clarity (listen to his spectacular repeated notes on Sacre ’s “Danse de la terre”). At the same time, he’s got a refined sense of color that can give the haziest passages a seductive glow. Add to this his attraction to offbeat repertoire, and you have two releases that warrant serious attention.

The newer of the CDs offers two radically different solo works. The six-movement Hutsulian Watercolors , by Igor Shamo (1925–82), is a series of evocations inspired by life in the Carpathian Mountains. While there are moments of rhythmic drive (in particular, in the second and sixth movements), the primary mood is idyllic and contemplative, a mood quite a bit gentler and more poignant than the notes—with their references to its “coarse side” and its “bizarre dissonances”—would lead you to expect. Folk elements are central—but the traditional is filtered through more sophisticated techniques learned from Debussy, Khachaturian (especially in the fifth movement), Gershwin ( Rhapsody in Blue is nearly quoted in the second), and especially Bartók. There may be nothing radically original here; but in its laid-back way, the piece offers greater pleasures than the Third Symphony and the Flute Concerto ( Fanfare 2:3), the only other works by Shamo that have come my way. The performance—patient, suggestive, and redolent—certainly holds your attention.

Sacre , of course, is tougher stuff, and it gets a harder, more tightly articulated performance. Tightly articulated—but often daringly slow in its tempos and, as is obvious from the highly inflected account of the opening pages, very elastic in its phrasing. In general, I appreciate the spirit behind Salov’s personal interventions—performances of Sacre seem increasingly uniform in perspective (if not in execution). But especially on the piano, it’s hard to sustain “Rondes printanières” at his chosen tempo (and harder still when you introduce further ritardandos toward the end), even given the huge sounds he manages to generate from his instrument. And much as I admire the clarity of the inner voices and the skill with which he transfers orchestral colors to the keyboard, I wonder why we need yet another solo-piano transcription of this profoundly orchestral work.

It’s perhaps in this sense that I’d rather have heard Salov take on something other than Stravinsky’s overplayed ballet that, in the end, makes me prefer his concerto disc (even though that, too, includes a needless adaptation—in this case, Barshai’s reupholstering of Shostakovich’s Third Quartet). True, I’m not quite convinced by the ending of the Ustvolskaya, where the treatment of the brutal repetitions could be even crueler than it is here. But earlier in the piece, I find the playing is more consistently vital and compelling than Ingrid Jacoby’s in her recording with Mackerras (although Raymond Tuttle enjoyed the Jacoby more than I did; see 26:6). Salov makes an even stronger case for the First Concerto by Liatoshinsky pupil German Galynin (1922–66), a work once championed by Dmitri Bashkirov. Galynin is often dismissed as a Shostakovich acolyte who, for a variety of reasons both medical and political, never quite fulfilled his potential. Perhaps so. But as this concerto, written when he was in his mid-20s, makes clear, that potential was great. Yes, the first movement in particular seems a Shostakovich knock-off, down to its excessive use of octave writing and its evocations of the circus. But in the dark second movement (which builds in intensity and then backs down in heartbreaking fashion) and in the finale, Galynin’s concerto probes far more deeply than does either of the Shostakovich piano concertos. And while I’d have preferred another Soviet concerto to the so-called Chamber Symphony, it must be said that, whether in its manic wildness of the third movement or the quiet ambiguity of the finale, Yuli Turovsky makes the strongest possible case for the work.

Both recordings are well produced, although the concerto disc (from 2006) has more immediate sound and fuller notes. The Shamo/Stravinsky disc, by the way, claims the Hutsulian Watercolors as a world premiere, but in fact there is an excellent earlier recording by Tatyana Ryabchikova on Sonora that is more sharply etched and more effectively coupled with unfamiliar piano music by three other Ukrainian composers (Liatoshinsky, Stepovoy, and Silvestrov). That’s one more reason for starting with the Ustvolskaya/Galynin/Shostakovich collection. But whichever of these Analekta discs you choose, you’ll be rewarded with an introduction to a significant pianist in ear-opening repertoire.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Hutsulian Watercolours (Les aquarelles printanières), suite for piano by Igor Shamo
Performer:  Serhiy Salov (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Salle Françoys-Bernier, Domaine Forget 
Length: 24 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Serhiy Salov (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Venue:  Salle Françoys-Bernier, Domaine Forget 
Length: 34 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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