About this Recording
8.579006 - SMIRNOV, G.: Dowson Songs / Chaconne (Bakari, Daurov, Valianatos)

Grigory Smirnov
Dowson Songs • Chaconne


The twentieth century proved cataclysmic for so-called ‘classical music’ (that is, music commonly regarded as for the elite, in contrast to ‘popular music’, created for the masses.) The advent of radio and television meant that music was more widely accessible than ever before; however, this explosion in mass media did not result in correspondingly vastly increased audience figures for ‘classical music’. Many composers reacted to this by becoming adherents of the avant garde: music specifically written in the knowledge that it was going to be appreciated by a small circle of people who would understand its intricate intellectual mechanisms.

Nevertheless, there are a few composers who have resisted the temptation to classify themselves as either the authors of ‘popular’ or ‘classical’ music; musicians who still view melody as being the soul of music and have chosen not to avoid tonality and the consonantdissonant harmonic system, and yet create music which is indisputably ‘high classical’. Grigory Smirnov is one of this ilk, and his music has a sincerity and timelessness which makes it hard to date. It explores eternal questions: life, love, death, and has no open stylistic declarations. Rather, it should be appreciated as a window to the composer’s vulnerable soul.


Chaconne for cello and piano was completed in the Autumn of 2013. The work was commissioned by Carol Andrea Whitcomb, a long-time supporter of the Tanglewood Music Center, and premièred by cellist Adrian Daurov and pianist David Kaplan at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York on April 7, 2014.

This music was born as a result of the composer’s reflections on the concept of overcoming the dualism of the individual and environment; in other words, the idea that environment is constantly changing and going through the recurring process of death and rebirth. The composition is based on a steady, harmonised descending scale pattern, above which a melody unfolds. In the process of musical development and dialogue, the borders between the melody and harmony start to vanish, as if the melody becomes a ‘co-creator’ of the surrounding harmony. As indicated by the title, the work follows the Baroque chaconne idea by incorporating a series of variations on a short repeated harmonic progression.

Dowson Songs

The song cycle Dowson Songs, based on poems by Ernest Dowson, was completed in late 2013. It was commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and premièred by tenor Martin Bakari and pianist Julius Abrahams at Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Music Center, New York, on April 7, 2014.

Ernest Christopher Dowson (1867–1900) was an English Romantic poet and notable translator of French poetry. Due to his early death at the age of thirty-two, he left a fairly small body of work. Nevertheless, he is considered one of the most gifted poets of his time who influenced many other poets and writers, including W. B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde. Dowson had quite a troubled life, shadowed by an unsuccessful romantic relationship that became the main inspiration for his writing. The leading themes of his poetry are lost love and the sadness of separation, which he was able to express with a remarkably beautiful lexicon. Dowson is the author of some poetic phrases that later became iconic and frequently quoted, such as ‘gone with the wind’ and ‘days of wine and roses’.

For this song cycle, Grigory Smirnov has collated ten poems by Dowson from different collections and organised them in such a way as to have them tell a story, with the end goal of finding a resolution to the poet’s drama through music, with a particular focus on the concept of the transformative evolution of love.

Booklet notes compiled from material supplied by Michail Kazinik and the composer

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