Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kagan, Lubimov & Mikhailov – Chamber Music of the 20th Century

   When romantic music has divided into professional concert music and more popular forms of musical culture, its place in public attention started to decline. Later, in XX century, when great symphonic works were still able to attract, works of less scale, sometimes experimenting with form and highly complex idiomatic language were seen as devoid of deeper meaning. With few exceptions of course, but these were the exceptions that prove the rule. These records as well as concerts of chamber music of the twentieth century composers are rather rare. This applies especially to these works which has crucial importance in creating new approaches and styles. Finally, there are not too many fans listening to the music of this kind.
   The more interest needs to be paid to any attempt of breaking the monopoly of mainstream art. And projects of this kind are sometimes taking place in various countries and in different ways. Most popular forms of publicizing niche works are festivals and independent artists’ recitals, present both in public performances and in recordings. Many of these are really valuable artistic achievements. One of such interesting and almost forgotten albums is Russian anthology Chamber Music of the 20th Century (Камерная музыка ХХ века) pressed in seventies by Mелодия label. One-record edition comprises works by Charles Ives, Anton Webern, Arnold Schőnberg, Krzysztof Penderecki and Alban Berg so it is only a glance at avant-garde chamber music but also quite rich showcase of three Russian artists.

Ives, Webern, Schőnberg, Penderecki, Berg – Chamber Music (1978)

   The three virtuoso artists, playing in duos and in trio, created imposing bunch of modern classics. This set has been performed by violin virtuoso Oleg Kagan, pianist Alexei Lubimov and clarinetist Lev Mikhailov. Oleg Kagan (Олег Моисеевич Каган) as young artist achieved prominent position in concert and chamber music. He was active in various styles and wide spectrum of repertoire. Died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 44 years but left a collection of great recordings. Chamber Music of the 20th Century is one of his early recording projects. In his renditions one can see a concise history of 20th century avant-garde music – selected works are terse and important achievements, from Largo by Charles Ives (1901), through Vier Stücke op. 7 by Anton Webern (1910) and Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment op. 47 by Arnold Schönberg (1949) to Three Miniatures for Violin and Piano by Krzysztof Penderecki (1959).
   Selection of works reveals characteristics of one of the most important trends of 20th century music. Largo composed by Charles Ives in 1901 has many versions for different sets of instruments. This arrangement for violin and piano shows deep lyricism and simplicity being main idea of modern music. Simplicity of language and laconic form can be traced in this program as a leitmotif, although in Schönberg’s Phantasy level of technical complications makes it a virtuoso composition. Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment op. 47 has been composed in March 1949. Arnold Schőnberg wrote his dedication for “Adolf Koldofsky who pleased me with his performance of my String Trio”. In original version this was composition for solo violin, as Schőnberg called it “for violinist with six fingers”. Later he added the piano accompaniment.
   Whole A-Side program is great recital of Oleg Kagan with precise and balanced participation of Alexei Lubimov (Алексе́й Бори́сович Люби́мов), pianist of great merit and importance in modern Russian music. He is the one who took part in all performances on B-Side which comprises two works by Alban Berg Vier Stücke für Klarinette und Klavier op. 5 and Adagio from Kammerkonzert. Chamber Concerto originally written for piano, violin and 13 wind instruments was finished in 1925, but ten years later, in 1935 composer made arrangement of 2nd movement for trio. Berg’s compositions are the program of Lev Mikhailov (Лев Николаевич Михайлов), clarinetist and saxophonist known as great solo and chamber artist. Last composition is a kind of crown for this set of recordings. The three artists made a perfect team, where every one is virtuoso alone and all of them can find their place in synergic relations with the others.

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