AIRAT ICHMOURATOV (b.1973): Concerto grosso No. 1, Op. 28, 3 Romances for Viola, Strings and Harp, Op. 22, Octet in G Minor “Letter from an Unknown Woman”, Op. 56.

Catalogue Number: 09V010

Label: Chandos

Reference: CHAN 20141

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: An immensely enjoyable disc of contrasting works by a composer of considerable range and originality, working in a versatile and appealing tonal idiom. Ichmouratov, born in Soviet Tatarstan and now living in Canada, is heir to the Russian-Soviet tradition to which his career as clarinettist (playing, of all things, klezmer music) adds an unexpected touch (only in one of the pieces here). The Concerto grosso, with its modern concertino group, is modelled after its Baroque namesake, but the piece is a deliciously entertaining divertimento, full of good humor and unexpected twists. The first movement is elegant and playful, a cousin to Prokofiev's 'Classical' symphony or some of the more easygoing numbers of Romeo and Juliet, with passing lighthearted reminiscences of Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, and Rachmaninov among others. The central movement begins harmlessly enough, though with some interesting textural choices that warn us that something is 'up', and then develops into a very slow waltz of questionable moral standing. A sentimental middle section reintroduces the sultry waltz, now more ominous than before, then the composer’s klezmer-saturated clarinet solo ushers in first a coda of genuine pathos with an eastern sense of modality (a distant echo of Tatarstan?), then the finale, a wild klezmer-tinged romp, which increasingly abandons all pretense at respectability, but not its sense of fun, unexpectedly reprising the first movement before the end. Far more serious, but no less approachable, is Letter from an Unknown Woman, after a tragic novella by Stefan Zweig that tells the story of a woman infatuated with a successful writer who bears his child but is never a part of his life apart from two brief liaisons, as revealed in a letter that she wrote to him after the death of the child and her own impending death in the 1918 influenza epidemic, is in three linked movements, slow-fast-slow. Although the music is not explicitly programmatic, themes, events, and moods of sorrow, despair, resignation, intense emotion and finally the solace of escape through death are clearly depicted. The first movement is elegiac and sad, with what sound as though they could be deliberate, if distant, allusions to Verklärte Nacht (which, after all would not be entirely inappropriate). The second is agitated and a little frantic, while the last returns to the mood of the first, now overlain with a sense of resigned farewell. The Romances are not quite what they seem at first; all begin as naive, sentimental melodic pieces, but the first develops a more serious mood towards the end, the second gradually rises to a brief climax of passionate tragedy, while the third starts like a 'relaxing' piece of almost New Age persuasion, then turns into an ominous crescendoing ostinato-driven cortège which recedes and gives way to a gentle coda. Elvira Misbakhova (viola), Belarussian State Chamber Orchestra; Evgeny Bushkov.


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