ALEXANDER BRINCKEN (b.1952): Orchestral Music, Vol. 1 - Symphony No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 27, Capriccio for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 11.

Catalogue Number: 01V008

Label: Toccata Classics

Reference: TOCC 0550

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: This is a grand, Romantic symphony with nothing neo- or post- anything about it, that happens to have been written five years ago. Brincken was a product of the Soviet conservatoire system, with which, with his German and Georgian ancestry and the Austrian-German leanings of his education in the former Czarist capital, he seems to have felt no affinity whatsoever. This glorious anachronism draws on the German and Viennese tradition, and evokes such composers as Bruckner, Wagner, Franz Schmidt, Richard Strauss, Joseph Marx and, at its most 'modern', Sibelius and perhaps Martinů. The first movement introduces a repeated climbing motif that might be distantly related to the ' mountain ascent' that some hear in the first movement of Bruckner's 7th. This inexorable progression leads to the movement’s first climax, and is followed by a fast theme first presented as a frisky fugato, and a pastoral 'second subject'. There is a loose sense of development as the music passes through a series of imposing vistas from the world of the Alpensinfonie and Bruckner's 'hunting' scherzi. Mysterious 'forest murmurs' usher in the movement’s grandiose peroration, with a blaze of Brucknerian grandeur. The Adagio that follows radiates awestruck calm and contemplation in the midst of the beauties of nature, in long-breathed lyrical phrases. The movement is in tripartite form, with a grand chorale, suggesting the bells and chants of Orthodox Church music at its center. The blissful serenity of the return of the 'A' section material leads to the movement’s monumental climax before fading away as though bidding a resigned farewell. The following scherzo begins with a rhythmically sprightly theme presented as a fugal exposition. The movement is in fact in sonata-rondo form, and as it progresses it becomes increasingly driven, unrelenting and finally aggressive. An episode that passes briefly through major keys fails to halt the movement’s increasingly strident dénouement. The allegro finale begins with a rhythmically insistent ostinato-like four-note motif with a vaguely Sibelian feel. Initially this sounds energetic and propulsive, and acts as an accompaniment to lyrical melodic lines, and at this point the movement could be heading for a triumphant conclusion. But it abruptly takes a darker turn, the chugging rhythm now sounding hectoring and threatening, and then as the level of agitation rises the music tries to drown out the rhythm with increasingly desperate statements of the noble, lyrical themes from earlier in the movement. This seems to succeed, and the ostinato sinks, muttering, into the depths; the movement comes to rest on a static low G, then suddenly erupts in a final defiant burst of energy. The Capriccio, from 1985, is effectively a piano concerto in five sections played without a break. Although less lush and more harmonically astringent than the composer's later output after he moved to Switzerland in 1992, the tug of Romanticism and Brincken's expression of his difficult personal circumstances at the time against the need to write something performable under Soviet strictures is very audible. Two elegiac, rather dark ‘meditations' - the second, a deeply personal sombre and doleful lament which pushes its chromaticism near the limit, being by far the longest movement - are separated by fast movements with something of Prokofiev about them (the second featuring a subject based on an Armenian mode). The piano writing is brittle, declamatory and virtuosic, intended as a vehicle for the composer-pianist, who is his own more than capable soloist here. Alexander Brincken (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Rainer Held.


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