NOSYREV:  Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra (Mikhail Gantvarg).  Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Igor Uryash).  Four Preludes for Harp (Irina Donskaya).  Skaza (A Fairy Tale).
Mussorgsky Opera and Ballet Theatre Orch/Andrei Anikhanov, cond.

OLYMPIA OCD 696 (F) (DDD) TT:  58:41

Here is another attractive, if rather inconsequential, CD in a series of five devoted to music of Russian composer Mikhail Nosyrev (1924-1981), produced with the assistance of his son. Another CD in the set, the ballet The Song of Triumphant Love, is reviewed on this site.  Nosyrev, after denunciation by Soviet authorities, spent many years in a prison camp. It is incredible that the Siberian prison library contained Rimsky-Korsakov's book on instrumentation, which was of great value to the aspiring young composer. After serving his prison term he went to Voronezh in southern Russia where he was highly regarded as a theatre conductor as well as a composer.  He conducted many major operas and ballets and was thought highly of by Dmitri Shostakovich (was he just being kind?) whose intervention permitted Nosyrev to enter the Soviet Composers' Union.

All of the works on this CD are surely pleasant enough to hear but of little lasting interest. The earliest work is the symphonic poem Skaza (A Fairy Tale), written in 1947 when the composer was only 23. Of less than twelve minutes duration, according to CD notes it has traces of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (which elude me), and is merely a series of unconnected interludes with no broad melodies or structure.  A nature-like setting prevails, with semi-comic bird calls and harps - but the symphonic poem goes nowhere.  Likewise, Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra, written in 1957, is a pleasant enough eleven-minute work that begins slowly and mundanely follows its own course.  Most interesting is the Piano Concerto composed in 1974, premiered the following year with the composer conducting.  The next performance didn't occur until February 1999 when Igor Zhukov was soloist in a concert marking the 75th anniversary of Nosyrev's birth.  Two outer contemplative movements contrast with the busy second, Ritmo ostinato, and the work ends quietly.  There's a preponderance of empty gestures—t's easy to understand why the work has been neglected although some of the exchanges between piano and instrumental groups are intriguing. The harp is one of Nosyrev's favorite instruments; his Four Preludes, written in 1964, are contemplative and quite beautiful.

Performances throughout are superb. "Mussorgsky Opera & Ballet Theatre Orchestra, St. Petersburg" plays at the highest level under their young conductor Andrei Anikhanov. Semen Shugal produced all of Olympia's Nosyrev recordings.  Now an independent producer, for more than forty years he worked with Evgeni Mravinsky, Yuri Temirkanov, Mstislav Rostropovich and many other leading Russian artists. Shugal has achieved superb balances and a wide-range sonic picture of great brilliance. It's unfortunate more music wasn't included; this full-price CD offers less than an hour of playing time.

R.E.B. (Oct. 2001)