Gidon Kremer / Roman Kofman / Kremerata Baltica

Victor Kissine: Between Two Waves

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Michael Tilson Thomas has said that the music of Russian-born composer Victor Kissine "inhabits this interesting world between Alfred Schnittke and Morton Feldman." You might add the post-Romantic serialism of Alban Berg to that list; although Kissine does not use serial technique, he tends to rigorously build up large structures from an established set of pitches in an atonal context. And the composer himself points to Bach's influence, explicitly audible in the Duo (after Osip Mandelstam), and generally evident in structures based on imitation and counterpoint. Finally, Kissine has been compared with Charles Ives and has quoted him in his own music. This last comparison is perhaps the most fruitful, even though Kissine's almost minimal textures bear little similarity to Ives' expansive worlds. He is one of the few composers to use an original modernist musical language in the service of the depiction of familiar places and ideas, in this case related to the composer's hometown of St. Petersburg. The Between Two Waves title of the first work (and of the album itself) refers to the city's unique estuarine environment, and to a quotation from poet Joseph Brodsky (alluded to in Kissine's impressionistic notes) to the effect that waves on the Neva River always come two at a time. This is worked in with other ideas (from Bach and T.S. Eliot) that you certainly would not guess without prior explanation, but the intricate construction of the music combined with its extreme quietness holds the listener's attention on its own. The performances of the musicians of the Kremerata Baltica (violinist Gidon Kremer appears himself as soloist in the final Barcarola) are equal to the considerable technical demands of the music, and ECM's sound is its usual sterling self.

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