Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 1
Piano Trio in d
Zakhary Kozharsky, cond;
Lubov Yedlina (pn);
Bogodar Kotorovich (vn);
Valentin Berlinsky (vc);
USSR St SO;
MELODIYA 10 01808 (66:19)
German Galynin (1922–66) was one of the circle of favored pupils that clustered around Shostakovich beginning in the 1940s at the Moscow Conservatory. He was by several contemporary accounts a talented pianist and composer, gifted with great energy and a highly impulsive nature. These latter characteristics did not always work to his advantage, as musicologist Marina Sabinina recalled years later in
Shostakovich: A Life Remembered:
But now a meeting was convoked for students of the Compositional and Musicological Faculty. … The critical moment was reached during the speech of the newly appointed secretary of the Party Bureau of the Conservatory, Semyonov. He succeeded in awakening the auditorium from its apathy when he declared belligerently that, had it not been for the [Zhdanov] Decree which had now restored order, our music would have disintegrated into a state of shameful anarchy: “So any old Shostakovich or any old Prokofiev could have written whatever he felt like.”
At this point the hall erupted. German Galynin, one of Shostakovich’s brightest and most talented pupils, a lad of spontaneous and ungovernable temper who worshiped his teacher, attempted to jump up from his seat. His wife N. Shumskaya and myself … clung on to him and tried to hold him down.
“What are you going to do?”
“Let me go, I’m going to kill the bastard.”
As is my wont when dealing with slightly unbalanced people, I asked him brusquely how he intended to carry out his threat: “What will you kill him with?”
“A chair!” Hermann shirked furiously, trying to grab a chair from the row in front.
The chairs were joined and bolted down, so Galynin failed in this goal, but not for lack of trying. If he sounds a bit unhinged here, the composer Sofia Gubaidulina had her own answer: The culture itself during that period was toxic. “At the time our life was a nightmare, and many people went mad. I also went mad at the time—clinically mad. So did the composers Roman Ledenyov and German Galynin.”
Galynin, like Boris Tchaikovsky and many others, was required to retake the last few years of his musical education at the Moscow Conservatory to make certain the “contagion” of several proscribed teachers had been removed from their systems. Tchaikovsky became more circumspect for many years as a result, but the effect on Galynin was more profound. He suffered a mental breakdown, followed by years entering and leaving institutions for whatever was regarded as appropriate treatment, and almost ceased composing for a decade.
The nature of Galynin’s mental illness, if it ever existed, has never been established. Sabinina stated the official diagnosis was schizophrenia, and I’ve heard this personally from another source since then, who was part of the Soviet music scene at the time. On the other hand, the composer’s son, Dmitri Galynin, denies such a clinical diagnosis had ever been made. For the rest, your guess is as likely to be correct as another. All that remains is the music, and it’s good enough to make one wish Zhdanov had drowned during World War II in a vat of his favorite vodka.
The exuberant First Piano Concerto of 1946 (his Second appeared a year before his death; I have not tracked down any recording of it) was Galynin’s shot-across-the-bow, announcing his talent to the Soviet music establishment. It proved very popular, and while encapsulating a number of typical Shostakovich fingerprints—lowered sixths, the Phrygian mode, pop-music bass lines, comically mindless themes given the “wrong note” treatment—was also the first published work to state the DSCH motto, preceding the older composer’s use of it by roughly a year. Worth noting too is that the Andante movement displays a convincingly melancholy poetry that owes more to Galynin’s earlier teacher of composition at the Moscow conservatory, Miaskovsky.
was actually a trio of works composed during 1939–41, then united by Galynin in 1963. It brings to mind Prokofiev’s style in great detail—not surprisingly, given the popularity and influence of the older composer directly after his return to the Soviet Union in 1935. The second of the group is the most distinctive in its combination of brutality, grotesquerie, and chromatic lyricism. The Piano Trio, composed in 1948, had to wait until 1956 for its premiere. In four movements, the prelude’s textures invoke memories of the opening to Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, though to less austere ends, while the toccata has the character of a grimly fugal scherzo. The lengthy passacaglia that follows is the most concentrated and strongest thing in the work, using two or three independent parts to create contrasts of alternately stern and elegiac character. A brilliant fugue completes the piece, by turns adhering to traditional rules and thumbing its nose at them. Finally, the
for violin and string orchestra was composed in 1959, heralding the composer’s creative resurgence. A work of disconsolate beauty, it looks back again to Miaskovsky in many respects, if from a new vantage point.
These 1960s and 1970s performances have surfaced numerous times over the years, and their uniform quality points to the esteem in which Galynin’s talent was held even after his death. Rostislav Dubinsky and Valentin Berlinsky were half of the original Borodin Quartet, while Lubov Yedlina was Dubinsky’s wife, and a regular partner in their recitals. Bogodar Kotorovich was a prize-winning Ukrainian violinist. Dmitri Bashkirov was a Goldenweiser pupil, and Anatoli Vedernikov, a student of Heinrich Neuhaus. I won’t go so far as to say these are the best possible performances in the best of all possible worlds, but each displays the acolyte intensity required to sell such intense music. I’d particularly dole out praise to Vedernikov for his passion, and Yedlina-Dubinsky-Berlinsky for their extraordinary give-and-take.
The sound is good in all instances, very forward to the microphones, and neither too dry nor over-reverberant. The liner notes are mildly informative about Galynin’s youth, without any discussion of his music—fairly standard, in another words, if annoying.
Definitely recommended. I remember reviewing another version of the Piano Concerto 30-odd years ago, and wishing we had more of Galynin’s music recorded. Times have been sparse since then, aside from Toccata Classics, but perhaps this rerelease will spur some musicians to look at Galynin’s other published but unrecorded scores. One can only hope.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Piano Concerto No. 1 by German Germanovich Galyni
Dmitri Bashkirov (Piano)
Date of Recording: 1962
Length: 20 Minutes 24 Secs.
Sonata Triad, for piano by German Germanovich Galyni
Alexander Vedernikov (Piano)
Date of Recording: 1971
Length: 17 Minutes 30 Secs.
Piano Trio by German Germanovich Galyni
Lubov Yedlina (Piano),
Rostislav Dubinsky (Violin),
Valentin Berlinsky (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1971
Length: 19 Minutes 20 Secs.
Aria for violin & string orchestra by German Germanovich Galyni
Bogodar Kotorovich (Violin)
Date of Recording: 1976
Length: 8 Minutes 58 Secs.
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