MIKHAIL KOLLONTAY (b.1952): Viola Concerto, Op. 8, Piano Concerto No. 1 “White”.
Catalogue Number: 11V062
Reference: TXA 19129
Description: In a rather self-deprecating and confessional booklet note (which has clearly lost a certain amount in translation), the composer tells us that these early works (1980, and 1984 but subject to revision until 2010) were the fruits of his brief career as a Soviet musician, and were at least in part written with the cynical aim of achieving widespread acceptance, especially the Viola Concerto, written for Bashmet when the latter had already achieved star status. How much of this is intended tongue-in-cheek and ironically is hard to tell, but the work is very clearly written to give great prominence to the soloist, who carries a good deal of the argument from a position in the spotlight throughout (like the much more recent Violin Concerto - 09T065) including a substantial cadenza and extended passages that are effectively accompanied cadenzas in the first movement. The concerto is tonal, and a fine specimen of Soviet-era Russian music, bold, dramatic, and full of heroic struggle and striving in the first movement (with a sardonic, polystylivstic, 'popular' passage that sounds like something Kollontay's colleague Desyatnikov might have done); sarcasm and rude vigor in the central scherzo, and ascent to triumph through optimism (or prayer, depending on your point of view?) in the last. The use of early Church chant, and of repeating ostinato motifs, characteristic of Kollontay's more modern, fully mature style, are already in evidence here. The Piano Concerto is very Romantic, the first movement’s themes derived from song melodies by two Tchaikovskys, Peter and Boris (1925-96). These are treated lyrically at the outset and lead to rich, resonant climaxes and a bell-like cadenza. The boisterous, capricious scherzo-finale could be subtitled “children's games" and incorporates the rhythms and chants of children's taunting and counting rhymes, before a 'big finish' that could be by Kabalevsky. Nai-Yueh Chang (viola), Alexei Kornienko (piano), RTV Symphony Orchestra Moscow; Alexei Kornienko, Mikhail Kollontay).