Raykhelson: Orchestral Music, Vol. 3 - Piano Concerto, Cello Concerto

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RAYKHELSON Piano Concerto in g 1. Cello Concerto in b 2 • Hobart Earle, cond; 1 Boris Berezovsky (pn); 2 Alexander Kniazev (vc); Russian St...

RAYKHELSON Piano Concerto in g 1. Cello Concerto in b 2 Hobart Earle, cond; 1 Boris Berezovsky (pn); 2 Alexander Kniazev (vc); Russian St SO TOCCATA 0219 (59:24)

This constitutes the third volume of orchestral music by Igor Raykhelson (born in St. Petersburg in 1961). Lynn René Bailey in Fanfare 31:5 was less than complimentary about a disc of four orchestral works; Gavin Dixon gave a more detailed review of the violin and viola concertos in Fanfare 36: 2. It is easy to see where the “problem” might lie: There is an unashamed Romanticism to this very recent music. Raykhelson is certainly not the only composer to act in this fashion: Rachmaninoff (of whom more later) is a prime example of going against a prevailing tide. The plurality of expressive means currently available to composers precludes an accusation that Raykhelson is swimming against any tide, perhaps, but the point that this music is generally easily approachable should be made. The result is actually two highly expressive, expertly conceived and executed concertos, heard here in committed performances by their respective dedicatees.

This disc presents the 2008 revised, four-movement version of the piano concerto, dedicated to Berezovsky (the date of composition is given as 2007 on the back tray card, which is the date of the original version). The dark clouds of the first movement coupled with its tonal basis place the music firmly around Russia. Gestures that could have come straight from Rachmaninoff’s pen seem somehow at odds with the fact that the music is not overtly virtuosic. There are appealing Tchaikovskian woodwind echoes to the tail end of phrases. Some gestures can veer towards film music, and the first movement ends rather abruptly. Yet the second movement Grave is impressive, in essence a funeral march that holds some truly impressive quiet playing from Berezovsky. Whereas the initial two movements aspire to 12 minutes’ duration apiece, the third movement Scherzo is a mere 2:55. Here, Raykhelson’s jazz interests come to the fore, where they meet Stravinskian angularity. The excellent booklet annotator, the recently deceased Malcolm MacDonald, is right to invoke Kapustin in connection with Raykhelson’s expressive palette; one might add that a sprinkling of Mendelssohnian fairy dust has been added in regard to the scherzo. MacDonald is right, again, to identify a Gallic whiff to parts of the finale. The performance throughout is excellent, with Berezovsky’s rightly famous technique standing him in good stead in the third movement.

The Cello Concerto (2010) is played by the excellent Alexander Kniazev, who also gave the first performance of Raykhelson’s Cello Sonata in 2001; a decade later, he premiered the present concerto. Kniazev’s playing is beautifully expressive, which stands him in good stead for the long-breathed Moderato mosso first movement (a movement aptly subtitled “Poem”). This is a hyper-expressive, long-limbed movement that is beautifully orchestrated. The limping gait of the ensuing Allegro is most appealing, but the heart of the piece is the 10-minute Adagio, which appears to these ears at least to be a working through of a crisis of some sort. Kniazev is massively eloquent here, his mezza voce lines making maximal impact. The angular finale contains the most dissonant music of the disc.

This is a fascinating program of first recordings of music by a composer whose music exudes an audible freshness.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 25, 2014

  • UPC: 5060113442192

  • Catalog Number: TOCC0219

  • Label: Toccata Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Igor Raykhelson

  • Conductor: Hobart Earle

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Novaya Rossiya Orchestra

  • Performer: Alexander Kniazev, Boris Berezovsky