St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra / Alexander Titov

Wartime Music, Vol. 8: Gavriil Popov

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Gavriel Popov is a composer practically unknown in the West and nearly forgotten in the East. This 2008 Northern Flowers recording of his Second Symphony by Alexander Titov and the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphonic Orchestra is, surprisingly, only the second to appear on compact disc. The only previous recording was made in 1961 and reissued in 1995 by Olympia, featuring Gennady Provatorov and the USSR Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra, and including the only recording of Popov's First Symphony.

The symphony is heartfelt, but more than a tad shaky. Titov seems to like the score, and he appears to be trying to do his best by it. The opening Andante con moto, though, never quite achieves the climax it seems to be heading toward, the Presto giocoso never altogether gels, the Largo drags, especially toward its conclusion, and the Presto comes dangerously close to running off the tracks. The blame may fall on the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphonic Orchestra, which, for all its enthusiasm, appears to lack the dexterity and polish to tackle the score. Anyone who already has the Olympia disc need not bother with this one, but it may interest avid admirers of the composer because it includes the only extant recordings of his soundtrack for the film The Turning Point, and his "symphonic poster," Red Calvary Campaign, though neither work is up to the level of the symphony.

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