Patrick Baton / Mikhail Shestakov

Alla Pavlova: Symphony No. 6; Thumbelina Suite

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The music of Russian composer Alla Pavlova (born in 1952), who now makes her home in New York City, should be appealing to fans of old-fashioned tonality. It would be a stretch to call her music neo-Romantic, because there is nothing really neo about the pieces on this CD; she sticks essentially to the harmonic vocabulary and musical syntax of the 19th century, although her modulations are sometimes more adventurous. The emotional content of the music recalls the late Romantic intensity of a composer like Tchaikovsky, and comparisons with him are perhaps inevitable because the two are compatriots and both are best known for their symphonies and full-length narrative ballets. Pavlova's music even in her symphony has a dancelike regularity and tends to be somewhat rhythmically square and predictable (although, uncharacteristically for a composer in an album program notes, she criticizes the recorded performance, noting that it sometimes lacks the flexibility she imagined). Her music doesn't have the memorably lyrical melodies or the subtlety or delicacy of Tchaikovsky and can leave the listener wondering whether it would be more satisfying just listening to the music of the 19th century Russian master than to a less inspired modern imitation. The performances of Pavlova's Symphony No. 6 from 2006 and the Suite from her 2007 ballet Thumbelina by the Moscow-based Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, led by Patrick Baton, are spirited, but because of the heaviness of the material, come off as somewhat ponderous, although Thumbelina is more effective because it is more judiciously scored. The sound of the Naxos CD tends to be on the shrill side, but that may be due in part to Pavlova's orchestration and her penchant for using very high instruments.

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