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Leonid DESYATNIKOV: Sketches to Sunset; Russian Seasons for violin, voice and strings – Brno Philharmonic Orchestra/Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Phillipp Chizhevsky – Quartz Music

 Leonid DESYATNIKOV: Sketches to Sunset; Russian Seasons for violin, voice and strings – Brno Philharmonic Orchestra/Yana Ivanilova, voice/Roman Mints, violin/Alexey Goribol, piano/Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Phillipp Chizhevsky – Quartz Music QTZ2122 [Distr. by Naxos] (4/21/2017) 58:50 ***1/2:

Some of the Most Interesting Music You’ve Never Heard Of.

First: Who is Leonid Desyatnikov? Unfortunately, the booklet notes with this very interesting disc sort of assume we (I..?) know.  We get nice biographical information on violinist Roman Mints, conductor Phillipp Chizhevsky, pianist Alexey Goribol and soprano Yana Ivanilova – but not the composer.

From his website, we learn that Leonid Desyatnikov was born in 1955 in Kharkiv, Ukraine and graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory. Desyatnikov has written a number of theatre works including operas for the Bolshoi Theatre and a number of works for chorus and/or orchestra. Desyatnikov has collaborated with Gidon Kremer many times since 1996 including the works on this album in a chamber version of Sketches to Sunset and Russian Seasons. Desyatnikov has also made a much respected name for himself scoring for films, mainly marketed in Ukraine and Lithuania.

Based just on this introduction to Leonid’s music I would certainly like to hear more. Sketches to Sunset was originally a film score to the movie, “Sunset’, which depicts life in pre-revolution Odessa. The movement titles and the film itself contain a lot of Biblical references and symbolism. Some of the movements, individually, are quite captivating, most notably the opening “Absalom’s Death” and “Evening.”  This music stands well as an orchestral suite, without any imagery, for it is very picturesque on its own.

The fairly substantial Russian Sketches for solo violin, voice and strings was written for Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica. The words and some of the music are taken from Russian folk tunes. Desyatnikov’s treatments are virtuosic in places and completely interesting throughout. The music sounds, in places, like a “Stravinsky-esque” morphing of existing folk material and – in other places – like completely fresh melodies; beautiful in spots; unsettling and angular in others.

The performances here are all quite good. Special kudos to both violinist Roman Mints and singer Yana Ivanilova for being able to sound highly skilled and, yet, ‘earthy’ and folk-like when called for. This is a pretty impressive introduction to the music of Leonid Desyatnikov. I certainly had never heard of him before but I intend to find out more. I also am a new-comer to the Quartz Records label but congratulations to them for producing well sounding recordings and of music that is a bit obscure but very worthwhile!

—Daniel Coombs

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