Alla Borzova: Songs for Lada; To the New World

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
This release appears in the Naxos label's American Classics series, but the main attraction, "Songs for Lada" the composer's daughter, not the Soviet car, was composed between 1988 and 1991, before composer Alla Borzova came to the U.S., and mostly while her native Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union. No matter. It's an appealing piece, based on children's folklore from Belarus, that has been successfully performed in both the former Soviet Union and the U.S. The texts, written or adapted mostly by the composer herself, have a narrative quality; with spoken or sung adult female vocal solos one performing in folk style played off against a children's choir and an ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
This release appears in the Naxos label's American Classics series, but the main attraction, "Songs for Lada" the composer's daughter, not the Soviet car, was composed between 1988 and 1991, before composer Alla Borzova came to the U.S., and mostly while her native Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union. No matter. It's an appealing piece, based on children's folklore from Belarus, that has been successfully performed in both the former Soviet Union and the U.S. The texts, written or adapted mostly by the composer herself, have a narrative quality; with spoken or sung adult female vocal solos one performing in folk style played off against a children's choir and an orchestra that includes Russian bagpipes and other ethnic instruments. The composer specifies conventional substitutes for these, but to their credit conductor Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra do not use these, instead unearthing players of the originals, presumably from Michigan's large Eastern European community. The orchestra gets into the spirit of the work, and there are good immigrant soloists, but the real stars are the members of the unheralded Michigan State University Children's Choir, most of them presumably singing in an unfamiliar language. They yield nothing to much more famous groups in terms of pitch precision and rhythmic ensemble. The album ends with "To the New World," a genuinely American work by Borzova that depicts a group of immigrants including Irish, each with their own music; the traditions come together at the end in an American melting pot that includes jazz. It's a simple concept, but an original one, and as with "Songs for Lada" it's accessible without being in any way hackneyed or conventional. Anyone who has followed concert music in a major American metropolitan area these days knows just how much of it is accomplished by musicians with roots in the former East Bloc, and with strong engineering in Detroit's marvelously warm Orchestra Hall, this album offers a fine taste of that scene.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/29/2012
  • Label: Naxos American
  • UPC: 636943970621
  • Catalog Number: 8559706
  • Sales rank: 6,054

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Leonard Slatkin Primary Artist
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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    A bouyant and uplifting reflection on the immigrant experience!

    Alla Borzova is a Belarus born composer who moved to the US in 1993 and holds a doctorate from the Moscow Conservatory and additional work at the City University of New York with David Del Tredici. Much of her music has its emotional and stylistic roots in the folk music, legends and poetry of her native land. These works, here, also show a wholly refreshing blend of some American compositional approaches with some clear ties to her upbringing in Belarus. “Songs for Lada” is a very engaging and large work for young soprano, folk contralto, children’s chorus, native instruments (such as cimbalon, dudka and bagpipe) and orchestra. Lada, of the title, is Borzova’s young daughter and there is clearly a love within this music for Lada, for Belarus musical traditions and for the composer’s new home. The texts and sonorities of choice are highly creative. Each of the five movements to this ebullient cantata is based on a children’s rhyme, game, dance or folk tale. The first, Ladu-Ladu-Ladki is a child’s rhyme about birds, A Game with ‘Poppy’ is based on a game in which a child symbolizes a new poppy flower, the boisterous third movement, Once a Father Had Three Sons, uses a folk instrument ensemble to represent the antics of the three sons – all named Vasil. The fourth movement is the most lyrical, sometimes mysterious, heart of the work. Entitled Once Bai Walked Across the Wall, it tells the tale of a gnome seeking refuge and rest in the human world. The work concludes with the big, celebratory Shine, Shine, the Sun! wherein children seem able to communicate with nature; in particular, birds. Borzova’s orchestration includes various “weather” effects, bird calls of various artificial origin as well as recorded actual bird calls. The forces at work here are wonderful and authentic to the tone and intent of the cantata. The Detroit Symphony sounds wonderful as does the Michigan State Children’s Chorus. Valentina Fleer is a wonderful soprano with a suitably clear, lovely and non-mannered timbre and the folk singer Valentina Kozak (Parhomenko) is known throughout Belarus and, now, the US for her work with The Kozak Family Trio. Her voice frequently “comments” about the story and has a wonderful “bedtime story” feel to it that enhances the effect. This is a truly engaging and enjoyable work! “To the New World” is a sort of programmatic tone poem in which the orchestra reflects the countries of origin of the passengers on an imaginary ship. In addition to some very creative effects emulating the sounds of a ship about to embark, there are musical motives and sections that pay homage to immigrants from Germany, Israel, Ireland, Africa, China and Latin America. The music seems to carry the passengers and the listener across the waters until we “arrive” at America and the various ethnic sonorities kind of dissolve – chaotically at first – into a bit of American jazz. This is another very fine work that carries a message and the “program” is clear but without ever becoming cliché. Borzova is a very interesting composer whose work I would like to know better. There is a CD of her chamber music “Pink and Blue” on Albany worth checking out. Leonard Slatkin is a masterful conductor with a decades long dedication to new American composers and introducing their music. Slatkin also has a very discrete palate. Every composer and every new piece he has introduced is of high quality and audience accessible. He has brought the highest level of quality

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