Kancheli¥Tavener

COMPOSERS: Kancheli,Tavener
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Kancheli,Tavener
WORKS: Kancheli: StyxTavener: The Myrrh-Bearer
PERFORMER: Maxim Rysanov (viola); Chorus ‘Kamer…’; Liepaja SO/Ma¯ris Sirmais
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4023
Both the works on this disc were composed for Yuri Bashmet, the charismatic Russian viola-player whose enrichment of his instrument’s repertoire is beginning to rival the endeavours of the late Mstislav Rostropovich on behalf of the cello. Of the two pieces Kancheli’s Styx (1999), which pits the viola against a remarkable ensemble of mixed choir and orchestra, is the more immediately compelling, its yearning melodies and lush harmonies and orchestration offering many moments of ravishing beauty.

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The young Russian violist Maxim Rysanov is to be commended for providing this alternative to the pioneering recording on Deutsche Grammophon (DG) featuring Bashmet with Valery Gergiev and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre. Rysanov yields little to Bashmet in terms of intensity of expression and the capacity to sustain an atmospheric melodic line.

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Where the two performances differ radically is in terms of the acoustic, the ample reverberation of Riga Cathedral in Rysanov’s recording providing a stark contrast to the relatively dry sound on DG. Inevitably some inner detail is lost in Rysanov’s recording, the choir’s words being less clearly articulated than on the DG recording. On the other hand, Onyx’s recording manages to convey a much greater sense of space which is ideally suited to Kancheli’s musical style. The ultimate decision as to which recording is preferable may well rest with the coupling. Bashmet features the Viola Concerto of Sofia Gubaidulina, a very strong and impressive work, while Rysanov offers John Tavener’s The Myrrh-Bearer (1993); its lengthy dialogue between a slow moving ululatory solo line, once again eloquently delineated by Rysanov, and mystical sequences of choral writing, is the kind of piece that will appeal to fans of this composer, but to my mind is rather thin in musical substance. Erik Levi,/i>