About this Recording
8.223792 - STANKOVYTCH: Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 and 4

Yevhen Stankovytch (b

Yevhen Stankovytch (b.1942)

Symphony No.2 “Heroic” (1975)

Symphony No.1 “Sinfonia larga” (1973)

Symphony No.4 “Sinfonia lirica” (1977)


During the second half of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union was responsible for producing as much internationally regarded "classic" repertoire as any country in the world. In the period between 1970 and 1980 came works which to this day may be regarded as pinnacles of technical achievement and musical mastery. Schnittke's Concerto Grosso No.1 (1976), in terms of composing for the most limited of orchestral resources, and Gubaidulina's Violin Concerto "Offertorium", utilizing the full strength of a large symphony orchestra, may be seen as best exemplifying the greatest potential of "sound" from the resources available.


For slightly over a decade, my own activities as an orchestral musician (which finished approximately eight years ago), chamber musician and conductor brought me in regular contact with the greatest exponents and musicians most closely associated with the two best known living Soviet composers, Schnittke and Gubaidulina. As an orchestral solo violist, I had the fortune of working under Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Appearing as soloists under my direction and as chamber music partners have been Oleg Kagan, Oleh Krysa, Isabelle van Keulen, Alexander Ivashkin, Torleif Thedeen and Boris Berman.


As a Ukrainian, I am embarrassed to say that my association with the music of Yevhen Stankovytch came later than I would have wished. After having performed the Second Symphony for the first time approximately two years ago, I was immediately "knocked out" by a massive energy and exploration of sound, a personal reaction so strong which I had never experienced with compositions of our time. Subsequent performances have brought me closer to the musical and emotional core of the work. The more aware I have become of many of his orchestral, stage and chamber works the more convinced I am that this is a composer who deserves of a similar reputation to those distinguished musicians mentioned above.


As was for so long the case with Boris Lyatoshynsky, Stankovytch is, in my opinion, a major composer although unknown in the West. As was the case with so many gifted composers during the Soviet era, their work and international reputations were tampered with. I hope that the three symphonies on this disc succeed in finally establishing a man and composer I admire as one of the great musical figures of the final third of the twentieth century.


Theodore Kuchar


In music, it is not always so straightforward to identify that which is "Soviet" or "foreign and offensive." The individuality and independence of Yevhen Stankovytch confused the official ideologists of Soviet art, whose obligation was to struggle with those who departed from the official Communist Party line. On numerous occasions, their inability to classify Stankovytch's work resulted in the composer's forced "rehabilitation" in an attempt to demonstrate ideological loyalty. At times, he was strongly criticized for the minutest of details as a political formality, in an attempt to place guilt on either his avant-gardism or his return to an out-dated aesthetic, which did not appear officially convincing.


Musical life in the former Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s was divided into two very separate camps: by the followers of the traditional school - through the works of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and by the so called avant-garde, who were interested in works beginning with Schoenberg and Webern through to Boulez and Stockhausen. Young composers falling into the second category in Russia included Schnittke, Gubaidulina and Denisov and in Ukraine Silvestrov and Stankovytch.


The Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovytch, currently professor at the Kiev State Conservatory, is regarded by many as the most important compositional figure in Ukraine since Lyatoshynsky. He was born on 19th September 1942 in Svaliava, in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine, to a family of musically untrained schoolteachers. At the age of ten, he began studies on the bayan and quickly developed an interest in creating original melodies and composition. Several years later, he entered the music high school in Uzhgorod and began studying the cello. In 1961, Stankovytch was admitted as a student of composition to the Lviv (Lvov) Conservatory, but a requirement of the times, military service, soon interrupted his studies. Studies were resumed in 1965 at the Kiev State Conservatory with composer Boris Lyatoshynsky, the father of contemporary Ukrainian music. Upon his death, in 1968, Myroslav Skoryk assumed the position of Professor at the Kiev Conservatory and the role of Stankovytch's teacher of composition.


The Sinfonia Larga (Symphony No.1) of 1973 for string orchestra is constructed in an extended one movement sonata form. The designation of this work as sinfonia rather than symphony is quite intentional, as is the case with the Sinfonia Lirica. The limited instrumental resources, compact duration and traditional structure all form a deliberate association with the late baroque and early classical period. Scored for fifteen solo strings, the work introduces the force of the pathos of protest upon the listener, a symphonic drama of great tension. Various psychological nuances form the character of each section within the structure of the sonata form. The dynamics of the principal theme are within the gradations of a fortissimo-quadruple fortissimo dynamic level, built vertically over organ-like pedal tones and above them a clustered chordal mass. After the entry of the principal theme, a free-flowing sound mass resembles Bach-like polyphony. The secondary theme, lyrical and dream-like in character, appears to be a distant relative of romantic themes from the past. The section is played within a piano-mezzo piano dynamic level made up of lyric phrases by the celli, followed by mirror-imitation, a moon-like effect, consisting of short chords played on harmonics by the violas and celli. At the end of the exposition, all lines converge into a three-toned vertical D minor. The tempo gains momentum in the development, the proud oratorio-like pathos of the celli culminating in atonal avalanche. The recapitulation gives new emphasis emotional thought to scenes from the exposition, losing tension, assuming a farewell to voices of the past, fragmented themes already heard. Simultaneously, these memories build to a triple fortissimo climax, a prolonged three-toned F sharp minor cluster chord, which trembles with its tragic greatness. The lyrical secondary theme transforms from the subjective to the objective, of an epochal severity, in heroic open spaces of a legendary, far away place. The end of the recapitulation and coda are built on sonority and direct allegory -cosmic-like effects, pizzicato outbursts, clustered trills, glissandi. All this flows between a double to quadruple pianissimo level, to the final harmonic cluster and into silence.


The Symphony No.2, Heroic, of 1975 is scored for a large orchestra consisting of four flutes (two piccolos), three oboes (English horn), two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba. The very large percussion section, requiring a minimum of five players, calls for virtually every instrument, both small and large, belonging to that instrumental family. The remaining 0instruments include celesta, harp, piano and the usual strings. The symphony, in three movements and played without pause, was conceived by Stankovytch as a protest against war, honouring those who perished and praising the bravery of humanity .The opening notes of the unaccompanied snare drum and the opening declamatory statement by the strings play an important role in the symphony. From this opening call unfolds the main theme, a strained string dialogue upon which other voices of the orchestra enter. The dialogue develops into a grandiose polylogue, with pathetic sounds, beliefs, tragic emotions and outpourings presenting an uncompromising determination. The secondary theme, presented with a lightened and transparent orchestration, is introduced by the oboe and, subsequently, clarinet. The concise drama of the first movement overflows into the second, a tragic, symphonic requiem. The funeral-like atmosphere at the beginning of the movement is introduced by a passacaglia, after which the strings provide severity, a warming of emotion, spontaneous weeping with interruption of the sobbing oboe and crying flutes. These are consolidated with the entry, by the trumpets and then horns, of the Ukrainian folksong, "Oh glance mother, glance." The composer varies the melody into an explosion for the full forces of the orchestra, projecting a tragic atmosphere yet with oratorio-like brilliance. This movement, the dramatic centre of the symphony, demonstrates Stankovytch’s mastery of the accumulation of total thematism. A short finale reverts to scenes from the first movement, initially recoloured and hymn-like but finally concluding with an apotheostic character and strength of epic proportion.


Composed for string orchestra, the Sinfonia Lirica (Symphony No.4), written in 1977, seeks the natural essence of spiritual beauty and the subtle shades of psychological states. The symphony, composed for sixteen solo strings and in one extended movement, is played without pause. Every individual melody is masterly distributed through various voices and despite each melody's particular character, is structured in a vertical fashion. In other words, the numerous ideas occurring simultaneously, which initially appear to be unrelated, are quite specifically, harmonically, structured upon one another. At times, the composer indicates the conductor lead only one or two solo instruments, with the balance of the ensemble playing independently, within the parameters of given tempi, dynamics and character of the section.


The principal theme of the symphony, typical of the lyricism of Scriabin, is introduced by the solo cello and flows freely from a mellow sound cluster. This principal idea is a deliberate association with the romantic period yet this never obliterates originality of Stankovytch's language. The structure of the one movement symphony is synthesized. It is impossible to provide a specific designation to the overall structure of the work -present are sonata form, variations and rondo form, yet based on the symphony's opening and conclusion the work is cast in a clear cyclic form. Associated with the romantic, the personal lyricism of the work is characterized by a rich string sound flowing into many simultaneous solos, up to eight at the same time, creating an improvisational, yet quite specifically structured, texture.


Andriy Kochur




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