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CD Feature/ Alla Pavlova: "Symphony No. 5"

img  Tobias

Far more interesting than the debate about whether a composer should be using tonal or disharmonic means, at least in my opinion, is the question of musical form. For more than two thirds of her life, Alla Pavlova focussed on smaller arrangements, on chamber music and Lieder. Purportedly, she even compiled a string of simple pieces relating to fairy tale legend Hans Christian Andersen upon her arrival in New York. It was only the dismantling of the Soviet Union which led her to the big topics, the grand schemes and to writing symphonies. Within this new phase, she has consistently distanced herself from the socio-political - to arrive at the transcendental.

History explains for a lot and it certainly helps to understand why thís work.has remained so accessible despite its simultaneously emotional and intellectual interest in the supernatural and that which is bigger than us. Pavlova is a composer deeply in love with romantic and lyrical melodies and yet she does not need a lot of time to get her point across: Her experience with duos and small ensembles has provided her-with the necessary technique to catch the listener’s attention right from the start and to never let go: Already the first motive opens up an intimate and yet cinematic space and at the 1,5 minute mark, one of the main themes joins in yearningly, pulling you along and setting the parameters for Pavlova’s inner discours. Tinged in a spiritual colour and circling around the issue of what constitutes physical life and whether or not there is a reality beyond it (movement one), she first portrays the pain of the ego faced with immanent extinction only to escape this torture by means of meditation (movement two). Roughly in the sonata form, the third movement, marked by a sorrowful violin solo, transforms the themes in a thirteen minute drowining pool of doubt, releasing itself in two very different finales - the loneliness of a dying man (movement four) and the gratifications of acceptance (movement five). Despite this clear-cut layout, Pavlova does not consider any element as rigid. She constantly adds new material when needed, especially in the long third movement, which has enough merrits of its own to be labelled more than just a simple development. Throughout, she counterpoints the heaviness of her train of thought with a much lighter sound and a noticeable absence of percussive instruments – rather, everything flows through the string section, in a circle dance of modulations and melodies.

Pavlova is not pushing the boundaries of harmonics, nor does she intend to establish new dogmas with her flexible and personal buildup. Rather, she uses the symphony as a shell in which to instill ideas and in which to expose her material. Form is not an abstract term for her, but rather a practical issue, which is solved by the necessities of each symphony. Which is probably why she keeps surprising with a music which has long been pronounced dead.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Naxos Records

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