Songs of Bukovina: 24 Preludes
Alexey Goribol (piano)
Melodiya MEL CD 10 02607 44:29 mins
Legendary Russian recording label Melodiya has certainly smartened up its act recently, extending its repertoire into the bargain. Alongside a revelatory series of releases from piano duo Ludmila Berlinskaya and Arthur Ancelle, the latest of British rarities, comes this short measure treasury from a pianist new to me, Alexey Goribol. His strikingly-recorded forays into extremes of the piano register, courtesy of Leonid Desyatnikov, is well worth anyone’s time. A 12-page booklet essay by Maria Stepanova invites philosophical reflection on Desyatnikov’s prelude-treatment of 24 Bukovinan folksongs from, as she puts it, ‘a place where Ukrainian music changes as a result of numerous strata and mixtures, and the Jewish, Romanian and Balkan influences…don’t let it freeze and take its final shape’.
Much of the discussion is about folk melodies shorn of their texts (the titles are given in the track listing, but Desyatnikov thought them unimportant). Stepanova also writes about the composer’s thought ‘making itself at home in somebody else’s convention, an already established one, sometimes rewriting it completely, from or to the ground’. There’s diversity here, from the influences of Prokofiev in Visions fugitives mode and Bartók’s folk-song stylisations, but always personality. Left-hand ostinatos are capped by right-hand individuality; as in most journeys through the keys, the later Preludes acquire emphatic power, only to end with a poetic postlude in No. 24 (‘A pipe made of maplewood’) typical of Desyatnikov in an introspective mode at its finest and deepest in No. 14 (‘Poplars grew from one field to another’). Investigate.