Oleg Malov / Dmitri Liss

Galina Ustvolskaya: Pianoconcerto; Symphony Nr 1

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As a student of Dmitry Shostakovich, Galina Ustvolskaya absorbed many aspects of his techniques and expressions into her bracing, resilient music, yet developed a personal language that became more pronounced in her mature, avant-garde work. The Piano Concerto (1946) and the Symphony No. 1 (1955) are quite plainly indebted to Shostakovich, and as early works, do not bear many signs of divergence from his identifiable brand of modernism, his austere style of orchestration, or his modified tonality. If anything, these works seem like competent imitations of the older composer's music in almost all matters except harmony; Ustvolskaya's strident and dense chords are decidedly unlike Shostakovich's, and anticipate some of the harsher textures and abrasive sonorities to come later in her work. These recordings by pianist Oleg Malov and the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Dmitry Liss, are adequate for appreciating Ustvolskaya's developing style, and perhaps worthwhile as something rarely encountered in the West. But because the music in the Piano Concerto seems simplistic, amateurish, and unexciting, and the symphony almost too severe, slow, and dreary -- the two uncredited boy sopranos become quite tedious, even after a short time -- this is not a particularly enjoyable album. Megadisc's sound quality is decent, but not especially appealing in its flatness and dull colors.

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