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WORKS: Symphony No. 4 (Sinfonia stretta); Three Scenes from Goethe’s Faust
PERFORMER: Vanda Tabery (soprano); Bremen State PO/Michel Swierczewski
Despite being hailed as a genius by Shostakovich among others, Alexander Lokshin (1920-87) remains one of the least well-known of 20th-century Russian composers. A pupil of Miaskovsky during the Forties, he fell foul of the Soviet authorities very early on in his career when his diploma piece – a setting of three poems by Baudelaire – was condemned for manifesting signs of ‘bourgeois decadence’. Although rehabilitated in the Khrushchev era, Lokshin continued to pursue a fiercely independent creative outlook, refusing to compromise his principles and resisting any gestures of appeasement towards the Soviet regime.


Since Lokshin’s death, the conductor Rudolf Barshai has enthusiastically championed his work in the West, but the composer’s cause will undoubtedly be further enhanced by this new recording which presents two of his most impressive works in outstandingly vibrant performances. The Sinfonia stretta, composed in 1968, makes a striking impression, covering an astonishingly wide variety of emotions and timbres within a relatively short time-span. Although the idiom owes something to Mahler, Berg and Shostakovich, there is an individuality of expression which betokens a composer of real substance. Even more compelling is the Three Scenes from Goethe’s Faust of 1980 – a deeply affecting monodrama for soprano and orchestra that conveys the anger, desperation and isolation felt by Margarete in music of surging power and pulsating dramatic intensity. Erik Levi