Russian Chamber Music - 25cd Set
Label: BRILLIANT CLASSICS
Russia is home to some of history’s most significant writers, philosophers and leaders. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Lenin, Chekhov and Berdyaev to name a few espoused radical ideas about art, morality and the human psyche. During this era the Orthodox Church loosened its iron grip over society and secular music became more permissible. As a result, musical culture flourished with composers drawing on Russian folk and European classical traditions for their own unique creations. This set is a celebration of the nation’s creative prowess featuring a selection of the finest chamber music from this golden age. The set opens with Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857), widely considered a colossus of Russian music who cast a shadow of influence through successive generations of composers. Next, probably the best-known composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), receives due recognition here. While his most famous works are the ballets, this release sheds light on some of his lesser-known chamber music such as the abandoned Quartet Movement in B-flat. Dating from 1865, the movement is all that remains of the composer’s first attempt to compose a string quartet, and the main theme draws its melody from a Ukrainian folksong heard by Tchaikovsky from a gardener at Kamenka (he would later use the same theme in Scherzo à la russe). The same disc also includes String Quartet No.2 in F Op.22 which Tchaikovsky considered to be his finest work. Along with the greats, including Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Borodin, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov, this release brings our attention to the hidden gems of the Russian chamber repertoire. Nikolai Roslavets (1881–1944), for example, is a sorely overlooked pioneer of modernism and a victim of censorship. Praised as ‘the Russian Schoenberg’ by Nikolay Myaskovsky, he experimented with atonality and sought to reorganise the twelve-tone scale, as well as form and rhythm. The Soviets, however, were less impressed and his music was officially repressed from 1930. To avoid detection by the authorities, the composer even went so far as to falsify three different versions of his autobiography. After his death his manuscripts were confiscated, and his name was excluded from Soviet literature and musical dictionaries. The revival of his music only came about in the second half of the century.