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Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, September 2007

Pavlova’s musical language is firmly grounded in tonality with, not surprisingly, certain unmistakable Russian characteristics, especially in terms of melodic inflection. Her sensitive and beautiful orchestration evokes a sense of vastness reminiscent of Sibelius or late Mahler. Nevertheless, Pavlova speaks with an original voice. She draws in the listener with the gentlest of means—no demands, nothing flashy or jarring. Her harmonic syntax would be perfectly suitable within a symphony written at the turn of the 20th century, or even earlier. Her rhythmical procedures are the subtlest imaginable, yet there’s always a strong sense of forward momentum. From the first hearing this music unfolds perfectly comprehensibly, if never predictably. But despite its disarming accessibility, this music strikes me as far from simplistic. The symphony’s dream-like textures, achieved with the utmost economy of means, traverse a vast terrain of emotional states. Pavlova’s compelling discourse, direct and unaffected, ends up being quite moving, even if it’s difficult to explain exactly why.

The excellent Vladimir Ziva conducts the Tchaikovsky SO of Moscow Radio with great sympathy and conviction. An excellent recording of unconventional and curiously fascinating music. Recommended. © 2007 Fanfare Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, June 2007

Pavlova was born in Russian but has lived in New York since 1990. Her music has been taken up by Naxos as we can see from: Symphonies 1 and 3, 8.557157; Symphonies 2 and 4, 8.557566; Sulamith, 8.557674.

Her music has a directly appealing melodic melancholia. Crude parallels would take in the Tchaikovsky of the Pathétique, the lyric Prokofiev rather than the flâneur-sardonic and the adagio of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony. Pavlova must have been delighted with Ziva's performance which has a fluent sense of forward movement in equipoise with a confidently weighted melancholia. The mot juste between static and dynamic is very evident in the first two movements. This is plangent music - romantic and graceful without being tame or carrying any of the desiccation of neo-classicism. There is something piercingly affecting about this writing. Much of it has a steadiness about it but urgent forward momentum can be heard in the outer movements of this five movement symphony. The sound signature of what is an expansive work carries a strong emphasis on the massed strings. The only brass are the horns. The percussion ranks are also slimmed down.

The composer points out in the liner notes that the symphony has a spiritual programme - which takes the listener from personal feelings about Life, to an escape via meditation into the micro-world of the lotus flower, the disturbances of the real world, the realisation that the journey of life is also its Goal. Such programmatic background is interesting but the symphony stands on its atmosphere and emotional gravitas.

The brief Elegy has been recorded before on Albany. The music again has Pavlova's trademark breathing plangency and subtly regretful air. It has the air of Rachmaninov sumptuously blended with the music for Love Story and Dr Zhivago. It was written for the film The American Healys (1998).

It is a pleasure to report that Pavlova’s instinct and compulsion to compose remain as strong as ever and just as potently distinctive.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, May 2007

Written in 2006 by Russian composer Alla Pavlova (b. 1952), who is now living in the United States, this spellbinding symphony will hold your attention from its very first to last note. Ms. Pavlova tells us it’s a musical expression of her feelings about life and spirituality. Although it's cast in five movements lasting about three-quarters of an hour, it can be considered a single work in extended sonata form where the first and second movements are the statement, the third, the development and the fourth and fifth, the recapitulation. By emphasizing the role of the strings and solo violin as opposed to that of the brass (horns only) and percussion, the scoring is much more translucent than that of her previous symphonies (Naxos 8.557157 and 8.557566). The first movement contains three lovely themes that will tug at your heartstrings just like so many of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's more melancholy melodies. The second is spiritually mysterious and contemplative with solo violin and woodwind passages that evoke feelings of inner peace. The third movement is the symphony's center of gravity where material from the first is developed. It builds to an emotional climax culminating in a gorgeous violin solo and string-swept coda reinforced by the horns and bass drum. The two concluding movements might be thought of as "Death” and “Transfiguration" respectively, where previous motifs are recalled in the former and new material is introduced in the latter. They provide an affecting ending to this thoroughly engaging work. Lasting only about five minutes, the elegy for piano and strings (1998) is a moving lament originally written for the film The American Healys, which was a tragic love story. The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio (formerly known as the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra) under Vladimir Ziva make a strong case for both works. The recording is good despite some edgy string sound and a boomy bass drum. But don't let that discourage you from getting this release, because the music will soon make you forget any sonic shortcomings.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

Over the past three years Naxos has issued the complete symphonies of Alla Pavlova, now adding the Fifth completed early in 2006 and recorded three months later. Born in Russia in 1952, she studied at the Gnesin Academy of Music in Moscow, before working as a composer in Sofia and Moscow. Moving to New York in 1990, she became a member of the New York Women Composers group, her first symphony written there in 1994. Originally attracted by atonality, the present symphony shows not only a marked return to tonality, but also a discernible link with Russian composers of the late-romantic era. The melodies are long flowing lyrical and readily attractive, the programme being that of her personal view of life, the score very much relying on the orchestral strings with the brass reduced to the horns. You will find something of Hollywood in the general texture of the music, with a very important part for solo violin in the mood of longing and sadness. As I have commented previously, if you know the music of Miaskovsky you will be immediately drawn to this symphony. The release ends with the Elegy, music originally intended for the film, The American Healys, a smooth and beautiful piece with a part for solo piano. The orchestra was previously known as the Moscow Radio Symphony, the name having become a mark of excellence. It is in fine form with a fulsome string section, the recording in a rather large acoustic adding to the weighty climaxes.

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