Popov: Symphony No. 1, Op. 7 / Shostakovich: Theme & Variations, Op. 3

Popov: Symphony No. 1, Op. 7 / Shostakovich: Theme & Variations, Op. 3

by Leon Botstein
     
 
Considering the fascination and controversy that Dmitri Shostakovich's music continues to provoke today, it's about time that some of the attention rubs off on his lesser-known contemporaries. Case in point: Gavriil Popov (1904-72), who endured many of the same political tribulations as Shostakovich during his long career in the Soviet Union. With a riveting

Overview

Considering the fascination and controversy that Dmitri Shostakovich's music continues to provoke today, it's about time that some of the attention rubs off on his lesser-known contemporaries. Case in point: Gavriil Popov (1904-72), who endured many of the same political tribulations as Shostakovich during his long career in the Soviet Union. With a riveting performance of his sprawling First Symphony (1934) offered here, Popov is the latest beneficiary of conductor and scholar Leon Botstein's inquisitive spirit. This is unpredictable music, and its often wayward, dramatic curve takes a few hearings to sink in. Compared with Shostakovich's works, it packs a similar punch to the nearly contemporary Fourth Symphony; both are marked by anguished outbursts, complex textures, and surprising contrasts. But Popov can also conjure unique worlds of sound, especially with the woodwind solos of the central slow movement, which are magical but more than a little eerie. This uncompromising work deserves to be heard, both in its own right and as a complement to Shostakovich's music of the same era. Fittingly, Botstein offers an early rarity by the latter composer as a bonus here: the Theme and Variations, Op. 3, completed in 1922 during his student years. If it sounds nothing like the Shostakovich we know best -- he was only in his teens when he wrote it -- this ingratiating work still reminds us of his continuity with the Russian tradition, with shades of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky that would be purged from his mature compositions. For both of these performances, but especially for putting Popov back on the map, Botstein and the London Symphony deserve a standing ovation from anyone who cares about 20th-century music.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Admired by Prokofiev and Shostakovich but suppressed in Russia as "formalist," Gavriel Popov's "Symphony No. 1, Op. 7" (1934), is the most daring of his six symphonies, a work of brutal violence and brooding mystery which, quite clearly, had the wherewithal to offend the Soviet authorities. Only gradually has it entered the repertoire in the West, largely through the efforts of conductor Leon Botstein and a few others. This turbulent work evokes memories of Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" and Prokofiev's "Scythian Suite," and also bears some comparison to Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 4" -- similarly banned for its modernism -- so strong are its dissonances and restless, frequently atonal counterpoint. The London Symphony Orchestra, directed by Botstein, gives a charged reading, filling the first movement with nervous energy, the lyrical second movement with foreboding, and the Scherzo finale with savage sarcasm; the performance is a convincing argument for this rugged work's revival. The "Theme and Variations, Op. 3" (1922), by Shostakovich is an early work of modest proportions. This charming but derivative student work seems an odd choice as filler, since it dispels the impact of Popov's "Symphony" and closes the disc on a weak note. Telarc's DSD recording is fine, though the sound is a little distant in soft passages.
New York Times - Jeremy Eichler
With this excellent new recording of Popov's early First Symphony, Leon Botstein and the London Symphony show us just how big Popov might have been. There are echoes of Shostakovich's tart writing, but there is also much that is original.... Mr. Botstein leads the London Symphony in an exhilarating performance that will help put this work back on the map as visceral music from a voice that has been lost in the depths of Soviet history.
Gramophone - David Fanning
Imagine a palette of ecstatic Scriabin, expressionist Schoenberg, Scythian Prokofiev and early Hindemith-inspired Shostakovich, spun together in a centrifuge and hurled out onto canvas, and you have something like a picture of Popov's extraordinary composition.... This finely recorded new disc should be snapped up with alacrity by anyone with the slightest curiosity for 20th-century orchestral repertoire.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/23/2004
Label:
Telarc
UPC:
0089408064227
catalogNumber:
80642

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 1, Op 7
  2. Theme & Variations for orchestra in B flat major, Op. 3

Album Credits

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >