ANATOL VIERU (1926-1998): Symphony No. 2 (Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; Andrzej Markowski), Symphony No. 7 “The Year of the Silent Sun” (Romanian National Radio Orchestra; Horia Andreescu), Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra (Ivan Monighetti [cello], “George Enescu” Philharmonic Orchestra Bucharest; Andreescu), Clepsidra II (Madrigal Chamber Choir, Romanian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra; Ludovic Bács), Sinfonietta (Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra; Josef Hrnčíř), Psalm (Radio Chamber Orchestra; Bács).
Catalogue Number: 04T059
Reference: TRO-CD 01451
Description: When we welcomed two very valuable CDs of this exceedingly original composer of uncompromisingly powerful musical statements in 2016 (07S060 and 07S060), we wondered how he got from strident 1960s avant-gardist to a kind of far-flung polystylist, with all manner of modernist devices embedded in hugely expressive, monumental neo-romantic strata by the 1980s. It appears that sonorist avant gardism in its own right didn't last long; the Second Symphony of 1973 already exhibits a very personal style of polystylism within the bounds of at least a suggestion of traditional form. The work is in three movements, the first a kind of cut-up and fold-in of late-romantic and early-atonal gestures and ostinato figures, agitated and stressed as suggested by the title 'Tachycardia'. Vieru's orchestration is always strange and inventive (he uses electric guitar, Schnittke-like, as an ensemble instrument in several of these scores), but nowhere is this more true than in the second movement of this symphony, "Psalm", in which slow, meditative chorale-like patterns are presented throughout in string tremolandi. Against this background, nature sounds, birdsong and Romantic horn-calls echo through the landscape. The finale continues the slow, liturgical cortège uninterrupted, but now in competition with fanfare-like figures that threaten to derail it at any moment. The polystylistic clashes in the 1987 Sinfonia concertante are less violent, but the work still traverses wide stylistic territory. Tensions and conflicts between the ferociously difficult cello part and the orchestra abound in a classic 'individual against the crushing machinery of an hostile society' scenario, though the central pivot of the piece is an extraordinary slow movement in which static monolithic chords underpin an impassioned cello soliloquy and little repeating melodic fragments like memories of nursery rhymes used in the manner of Janáček's melodic ostinato 'cells'. The Sinfonietta is eleven minutes of strenuous, overpowering battle music, driven to a frenzy by urgent fanfares, quite tonal, at least in isolation (which they never are, by a distance), followed by a brief, glowing resolution that descends incongruously on the battlefield out of nowhere. The piece suggests turbulent times, and, commissioned by the Prague RSO, contains suggestions of Janáček and the events of the 50 years since the orchestra's founding in 1926 (the year of Vieru's birth). The tendency toward tonality continues with the passage of time; Psalm (1993) is very tonal and Romantic by the standards of Vieru's earlier works. The work has a solemnly exultant feeling, with rumours of conflict and wrath, resolved in a powerful affirmation of faith. The composer's last symphony, from 1992-93, a large three-movement structure of 1/2 an hour, is 'conventional' by the standards of the earlier ones, in a largely mid-20th century idiom based firmly in tonality, with echoes of Sibelius and Janácek though with Vieru's characteristic polymodal vocabulary alluding to folk music, and his highly original orchestration always an identifying feature of his style. The work, which begins with a brief quotation from the carol 'Silent Night' (also used by Penderecki in his 2nd Symphony a decade earlier, possibly with similar intent), projects a mood of hard-won - very hard-won, at the expense of lasting sadness and trauma - resolution and optimism, ending with music that seems to move into a hopeful future, that suddenly stops, abruptly and enigmatically. 2 CDs.