Now pretty many years ago when I worked in a publishing house the Art Director had a radio tuned to a local classical station. Every so often he would call me into his office (mine was next door) and ask, "What is this music!?" Interestingly it was nearly always Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending." He was right to ask. It is exceedingly haunting music, wonderful, and reminds us that Ralph studied with Ravel, but also that his Impressionism contained a large portion of his "musical DNA." The results were very much his. My friend and colleague was right on the money to pay note to that music.
All this I scrawl to bring us up to today's album, Poems and Rhapsodies (Centaur CRC 3799) which showcases the rather ravishing violin expressions of Solomiya Ivakhiv, along with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under Volodymyr Sirenko. Joining the proceedings for one piece is US native Sophie Shao as cello soloist.
I bring up Vaughan Williams and "The Lark Ascending" as it is a part of the program, very nicely done, an excellent version with all the special wistfulness of the score on display.
Throughout the program focuses quite happily on Ms. Ivakhiv's wonderful violin play, sweet enough to carry the feeling this program needs, not sticky sweet, and beautifully poised in her concentrated lyricism. The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine with Volodymyr Sirenko at the podium provides us with both the detailed sound staging that this music demands and a sympathetic centrifugal irradiation of lyric fullness.
The key to the music resides in part clearly in the title of the album, Poems and Rhapsodies. The six work program centers on an expression of impassioned sweeps of dramatic sounds, from the Late-Romantic French budding of a dimensional proto-Impressionism in Saint-Saen's "Le Muse et le poete" that features Ms. Ivakhiv along with the cello of Sophie Shao as dual soloists in a rhapsodic introspection that opens further into the present on Chausson's "Poem symphonique," which projects a wonderfully suspended reflectiveness and gives Solomiya a glowing set of responses to the orchestral ruminations, which she takes in stride and makes of it all something personal.
And then out of the rhapsodic mist there emerges at the most opportune point the wonderful "Lark Ascending" with a very fine absorption of the solo part, deeply thoughtful-wistful and the orchestra laying down a gentle carpet of aural pine needles. Nice job! And like my art directing friend of years back asked, "What is this?" is still relevant, for the music is wonderfully itself and as timeless as it ever has been.
From there we have a threefold second half of the program with some very Ukranian melodic and rhythmic fine tuning and folk recalling in the works by Anatoly Kos-Anatolsky and Myroslav Skoryk. The two works as presented here give the ultimate argument of why we need to hear and appreciate the works thanks to the considerable beauty and dynamics of the performances. The Kos-Anatolsky "Poem for Violin and Orchestra" was composed in 1962 and lost. Ms. Ivakhiv commissioned Bohdan Kryvopust to reconstruct the work from a recoded source. It is some beautifully intriguing music with Ivakhiv sounding every bit as expressive as you could ask for. And in the process we get the chance to hear this work in near ideal circumstances. It calls forth with a beautifully rhapsodic and then beautifully folk-dance-like. Bravo.
The Myroslav Skoryk "Carpathain Rhapsody" also has wonderful local dance-folk components that the composer skillfully sets up for soloist and orchestra in ways that intrigue and beguile.
To more or less tie things together we are treated to a Modern blockbuster with Kenneth Fuch's "American Rhapsody." It has a furtherance of the beautiful mystery than these works often carry to us in this recording. The Fuchs work has a wonderfully colorful and luminescent quality. It is worth the price of entry alone.
But of course you get a considerable amount of lovely music here, played with the kind of attention each of these works deserve. Solomiya Ivakhiv has just the right temperament to make each of these works shine with a fabulous tone and virtuoso panache that feels just right. And bravo to the National Orchestra for the care and brilliance with which the music comes to us here.
This one gives you a great deal to appreciate. Do not hesitate!