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CD Review

Alla Pavlova

  • Monolog for Violin and String Orchestra
  • Suite "Old New York Nostalgia"
  • Sulamith (Ballet Suite)
Yaroslav Krasnikov, violin
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Rossen Milanov
Naxos 8.557674 DDD 73:57
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This is the third disc of music by Alla Pavlova to be released by Naxos. (Her First and Third Symphonies are on Naxos 8.557157, and the Second and Fourth are on Naxos 8.557566.) Born in Russia in 1952, Pavlova remained behind the Iron Curtain until 1990, when she came to New York. She is now a member of New York Women Composers, Inc. Her communicative music should appeal to a broad audience, and it would be shame if she did not become better known over the next several years.

The major work here is Sulamith, based on a literary work by Russian author Alexandre Kuprin. Pavlova wrote a full-length ballet on the story of King Solomon, his love for the servant girl Sulamith, and the jealousy of his Queen Astis; a 45-minute suite of six excerpts from the ballet is presented here. The suite emphasizes the story's dark themes and the burning passions of the main characters; there is a little spectacle for spectacle's sake, and even less genre music. In other words, the dances are integrated into the story and the ballet as a whole. Much of the score suggests the ballet music of Khachaturian – Spartacus in particular – and that's no bad thing. Ennio Morricone seems to have been an influence too – and why not, because Pavlova also has written film scores. A solo trumpet, played by Artiom Grinko, plays a prominent role.

Old New York Nostalgia could not be more different. This is a suite in six movements for strings, trumpet, saxophones, piano, and percussion. Two of them – "From My Mom's Photo Album" and "Lullaby for the Twins" – were added in 2002. (The latter is an allusion to 9/11.) This obviously is a valentine to Pavlova's adopted city, albeit an old-fashioned one, especially in the first movement, which sounds fresh off Ellis Island. As befits the work's title, the mood throughout is wistful, but not tragic, even in the last movement, optimistically titled "The Ferry to my Dream." "Lazy Morning" is a nice, lightly jazzy example of symphonic pops. Old New York Nostalgia could be aptly used to accompany a film documentary about New York City in the first half of the 1900s. Pavlova's music is so attractive, though, it should be heard on its own.

The CD opens with the six-minute Monolog for violin and strings. Pavlova wrote it in 2002 following the death of her father, an amateur violinist. The solo violin never stops singing in this elegiac Monolog, which is thoroughly Russian in flavor. Pavlova's music is simple and heartfelt. A more touching and sincere declaration of filial love would be hard to imagine. Yaroslav Krasnikov plays it with appealing directness. (He also makes prominent contributions to the other two works on this CD.)

Conductor Rossen Milanov, a name new to me, is associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and has appeared all over the United States, while maintaining ties with his native Bulgaria. The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, made to sound larger than life on this CD by the Russian recording engineers, acquits itself well.

Pavlova's appealing music deserves wider exposure. Here's your chance!

Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle