The title of ECM's release of works by three composers born in the former Soviet Union perfectly captures the mood of the CD – it is truly mysterious. Although more than half a century separates the first of these pieces from the most recent, they share a sense of otherness that defies easy explanation. The pieces are not so much mysterious in the sense of being eerie (although there are several moments that might raise the hairs on the back of your neck if you were listening alone in the dark); they are unsettling because they raise more questions than they answer.
Though born in Ukraine, composer Galina Grigorjeva has lived in Estonia since 1992 and has worked within that country's deep tradition of sacred choral music. She studied music in Tallinn in the mid-'90s, and her music is thus interesting in terms of representing the thoughts of a younger generation that has absorbed the holy minimalism of Arvo Pärt as well as a variety of other styles from the Slavic world and beyond. Indeed, the unifying stylistic thread of the six works on the album can be hard to find, and indeed the booklet notes by Saale Karede point to "the living light that glows through the music," most of it religious.
Swiss pianist Ingrid Karlen makes her ECM debut with Variations, of which the program is as provocative as the title is vague. Beyond variations in the traditional sense, these are, rather, mise-en-abymes of abstractions. Or so they might at first aural glance seem, for within these sometimes troubling clusters of false starts breathes a unity at once organic and contrived. Anton Webern’s Variations for Piano, op. 27 (1935/36) is the primary example, for the only variations they seem to engender stem from that which cannot be notated. These pieces behave as might a solo violin sonata, jumping fluidly and bow-like through their ephemeral 12-tone links. They are the anti-motif, a stretch of childhood unable to be sifted.
This collection is the first book-length scholarly study of the pervasiveness and significance of Roxolana in the European imagination. Roxolana, or "Hurrem Sultan," was a sixteenth-century Ukrainian woman who made an unprecedented career from harem slave and concubine to legal wife and advisor of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566)…
The unique expressiveness of the work of Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) speaks to the listener with directness and nuanced layers of sound, the powerful, rhythmic stringency of the music testifying to the relentlessness of her vision. Fiercely independent, Ustvolskaya maintained that her music sounded like the work of no other composer, living or dead, and put herself outside all stylistic “schools”. Her work, said Viktor Suslin, has the "narrowness of a laser beam capable of piercing metal."
Valery Gergiev directs the Kirov Opera and Ballet in this magnificent 1998 production of Borodin’s "Prince Igor", presented in a new Mariinsky Theatre performing edition and featuring Mikhail Fokine’s original choreography in the famous Polovtsian Dances. Its four acts tell of the struggle between the Russians and Polovtsian nomads, of Prince Igor’s capture and escape from his noble opponent, Khan Konchak, and of love between Igor’s son, Vladimir, and Konchak’s daughter, Konchakovna.