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Recording of Galina Ustvolskaya’s Early Work Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Timpani

Compared to the late works of the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006), her earlier works are heard considerably less frequently. At the centre of Ustvolskaya’s rather small work catalogue are the Compositions 1-3, the five Symphonies as well as chamber and piano works. The musical language of this most courageous avant-gardist in the former Soviet Union, sparing and often irritating because of its radical, uncompromising nature, developed gradually but consistently, whereby the means selected by the composer became ever more concentrated. The Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Timpani, composed in 1946 and now recorded by the pianist Patricia Hase and the Ensemble Galina under Peter Leipold, still shows traces of academic influences and the style of her teacher Dmitri Shostakovich. Nonetheless, Ustvolskaya breaks with quite a number of conventions in this Concerto, the first completely valid work that she accepted into her catalogue. To begin with, the one-movement Concerto is strongly fixated on rhythm right from the outset. The piano virtually erupts into the course of events; clear thematic structures can be recognised which are then increasingly worked into the string orchestral writing and the timpani parts. The musicologist Olga Gladkova has compared the compact, concentrated theme with a type of nuclear reaction because the main motif generates countless “little atoms”. Ustvolksaya’s often powerful, almost dogged intensifications and dynamic contrasts characterise this early work, recorded with great dedication by Patricia Hase and the Ensemble Galina. The performers admirably bring out the necessary intensity in the interpretation of Ustvolskaya’s music as well as the often fragile tenderness of certain passages.

Galina Ustvolskaya:
Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Timpani
Patricia Hase (piano), Ensemble Galina, Peter Leipold (direction)
K&K Verlagsanstalt
KuK 123

 

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