Notes and Editorial Reviews
Who is Nikolai Korndorf? Have no fear, if the name is unfamiliar to you at present the ensuing popularity (which I’m sure this disc will attract) will have it tripping off the tongue as readily as Gorecki, Part, Schnittke or Tavener. For the uninitiated (and that included myself prior to hearing this release) Korndorf was born in Moscow in 1947 and started out as an 'avant-garde' composer, but (and here’s where he shares similarities with the names listed above) he suddenly changed to a more tonal, simple and above all spiritual style in the early 1980s. In 1991 he moved to Vancouver, Canada, and since then his music has been steadily gaining admirers and exponents in the West.
Sharing the same title, and possibly general sentiments, Korndorf’s three orchestral
Hymns would appear to constitute a cycle but, as Korndorf himself has said, he prefers that they should not be performed or considered as such. However, this debut disc offers us
Hymns II and III, though I would strongly echo the composer’s wishes and urge listeners to program a suitable break before moving from
Hymn II to III. In terms of musical style the works presented on this disc share much in common with Gorecki’s Third Symphony – slow moving, seamless textures, minimal material, peaking climaxes and, in Hymn III, an ethereal, wordless soprano part. If anything Korndorf’s music is even more static than either Gorecki or Part, and generally the impression is of vertical rather than linear movement – walls of ‘bell-like’ pulsating chords dominate and seem to suggest a kind of ‘summoning prelude’ to a great event – Korndorf himself would suggest perhaps the dawning of a new spiritual age.
Hymn III was composed in response to a commission by the Kohler-Osbahr Foundation for a piece in honour of Gustav Mahler, and there are certainly Mahlerian echoes to be found here – not least the off-stage trumpets heard at the beginning and the high sustained string texture which recall the First Symphony. Generally speaking, if you have enjoyed the sound world of Gorecki and Part then you will probably enjoy discovering Korndorf too. As for the performances, the BBC Symphony Orchestra play this music with great conviction and the soprano solo in
Hymn III is beautifully delivered by Catherine Bott.
-- Michael Stewart,