Piano Trio No. 2; String Quartets Nos 4 & 5
Chandos CHAN 20231 73:20 mins
The Toronto-based ARC Ensemble appears to be going from strength to strength in their quest to bring to our attention a whole roster of composers whose careers were unjustly blighted by political suppression. This latest beautifully recorded release focuses on the work of Ukrainian composer Dmitry Klebanov (1907-1987). An exact contemporary of Shostakovich, Klebanov was one of many talented composers who, like his far better-known colleague, suffered particularly badly from the strictures of Stalinist repression, not least because he was Jewish.
We get a good sense of the constraints that forced Klebanov to submit to the dictums of socialist realism in this expertly performed survey of some of his chamber works. Certainly, the Fourth String Quartet (1946) follows to the letter the official requirement for Soviet composers at that time to base their musical materials almost exclusively on folk music. In this respect, Klebanov succeeds admirably by putting together a highly accessible work which, apart from a few echoes of the Ravel String Quartet, doesn’t appear to stray much beyond the style of Borodin. A more personal voice emerges in the Second Piano Trio of 1956. True, the work is still couched in a Romantic idiom, and boasts some notable heart-on-sleeve melodies. But the trajectory of the outer movements is unexpected, suggesting that a darker tragic subtext underpins the music. These elements become far more pervasive in the dissonant and tightly argued Fifth Quartet of 1965. To my mind, this is the strongest work in the programme, and suggests that there is an urgent need to hear more music by this prolific and fascinating composer.