Ichmouratov: Piano Concerto, Viola Concerto No. 1 - Sylvestre, Misbakhova, Ichmouratov
Chandos CHSA 5281
Classical - Orchestral
Ichmouratov: Piano Concerto, Viola Concerto No. 1
Jean-Philippe Sylvestre (piano)
Elvira Misbakhova (viola)
London Symphony Orchestra
Airat Ichmouratov (conductor)
The Volga-Tatar-born Canadian composer and conductor Airat Ichmouratov conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in this recording of two of his major works, in Chandos’ third album devoted to the works of this outstanding composer. Both concertos are recorded here by the soloists who premièred them. Ichmouratov conceived his First Viola Concerto in 2004, whilst he was a conducting student at the Université de Montréal. His fellow Ph.D. candidate the violist Elvira Misbakhova wanted something new for her doctoral performance, preferably a concerto that combined lyrical impulses and virtuoso challenges. The resulting work is a large-scale piece in three movements that exploits and celebrates the naturally sombre character of the instrument.
The Piano Concerto was written in six months in 2012 – 13, then lingered in a drawer for almost a decade awaiting a soloist who could both do it justice and add finishing touches to the solo part. Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, a Montrealer with a fondness for the virtuoso tradition, was himself looking for a new concerto to champion. Ichmouratov gratefully acknowledges the contributions made to the solo part by Sylvestre, the Concerto’s dedicatee.
The recording was made at LSO St Luke’s, in London, in Surround Sound, and is available as a Hybrid SACD.
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Review by Graham Williams - July 10, 2023
Before auditioning these première recordings of two concertos by Airat Ichmouratov (b.1973) I happened on this passage in the liner notes by Arthur Kaptainis regarding the Piano Concerto. “Like many works by Ichmouratov. this one wastes no time in affirming its allegiance to tonality and the late romantics”.
This statement is true, not only of the works on this disc, but also of much of this Tartar-born Canadian composer’s output whose music, while instantly appealing and original is never superficial. Ichmouratov’s eclecticism that encompasses such composers as Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Shostakovich is clearly evident in the two contrasting works on this splendidly performed and recorded Chandos SACD.
Ichmouratov’s Piano Concerto dates from 2012-13 but, as the composer’s instrument is the clarinet not the piano, the work awaited a soloist who could bring it to fruition. Such a soloist is the dedicatee Jean-Philippe Sylvestre who edited the piano part and plays it magnificently on this première recording. The outer movements of this concerto are thrillingly virtuosic while the central ‘Grave solenne’ with its profound string chorale is clearly reminiscent of the finale of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony. A most welcome addition to the catalogue.
The earlier Viola Concerto No. 1 Op. 7 is a somewhat more sombre and contemplative work than the Piano Concerto, at least as far as the first two movements are concerned, but no less gripping. It was composed for the soloist here, the violist Elvira Misbakhova, whose rich tone and eloquent playing does full justice to Ichmouratov’s writing for the instrument. The work opens dramatically with a huge orchestral climax of epic grandeur before the soulful entry of the viola. It then progresses through an eventful ‘allegro moderato’ and reaches a new and nostalgically lyrical theme clearly reminiscent of Rachmaninoff (none the worse for that!),
The expansive slow movement opens with a four-minute meditative cadenza before the orchestra enters with a consoling theme that gradually becomes a slow march until its climax is reached, capped with tolling tubular bells. In contrast, the energetic finale has a bracing verve that provides opportunities for both the soloist and orchestra to dazzle.
The LSO provide their usual committed playing under the composer’s baton in both works.
These vivid première recordings were made in the clean acoustic of LSO St. Luke’s in April and May 2022 by Adrian Peacock (producer) and expertly engineered by Ralph Couzens.
For taste of these diverting concertos visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqdgQPN8_I8
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