Vladimir Ziva

Alla Pavlova: Symphony No. 5; Elegy

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Alla Pavlova is a Russian composer based in New York. The speed with which Naxos made her Symphony No. 5 available is astounding for a new work -- the ink was still wet on its pages when the Tchaikovsky Symphony of Moscow Radio recorded it under Vladimir Ziva in June 2006, and Naxos had it out on the shelves in the United States in April 2007 -- that's fast! One thing that is not fast about Pavlova's Fifth, for the most part, is the music itself. Pavlova states that this symphony is a personal meditation on life and spirituality, and this nearly 50-minute work is structured like a long sonata movement with two finales, "one subjective, (and) the other objective." It is only in the objective finale that the symphony seems to wake up -- the vast majority of it is slow, sad, and continually melodic with an emphasis on the strings and solo violin; winds and percussion are used only very sparingly. There is nothing in the symphony that would be out of place in Tchaikovsky, but the idiom is not particularly nostalgic in character; as an underpinning to its serene and melancholic surface texture, the symphony has a sense of restlessly moving forward and gains full momentum by the last movement. "Cinematic" would not be an unkind word to describe it, and it is even more apropos in the context of the very brief filler work, Elegy for piano and string orchestra, adapted from main title music written for the film The American Healys. This seems a rather mysterious title, as there appears to be no information about this film anywhere, other than it was based on the true story of ill-fated, Irish-born Southern American landowner Michael Healy, who dared to marry one of his African-American servants in late nineteenth century Georgia.

Pavlova's music here is mostly soft, quiet, and reflective -- if it wasn't so serious, it could almost be described as easy listening. While more impatient listeners might want it to move forward with a bit more concision and definition, it is easy to see how Pavlova might develop something of a following based on the Symphony No. 5 given the immense popularity of Górecki's Symphony No. 3 back in the 1990s. For those of you who enjoyed that work, Naxos' Alla Pavlova: Symphony No. 5 may well provide considerable listening pleasure.

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