The Leaden Echo Leonid Desyatnikov


This is all right.  There are ostinati and indulgent passages of violin writing.  It’s all very expertly performed.  The problem for me is that the composer Desyatnikov is determined not to show us anything of himself.  The extensive and interesting notes make the same point by way of a quotation from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

So the CD contains:

Return which builds up to a sample of traditional Japanese funeral music; so variations in reverse I suppose

A triptych of pieces (Du côté de chez Swan, Variations on the Obtaining of a Dwelling and Wie der Alte Leiermann…) that derive respectively from Le cygne, Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, and the song by Schubert.  All of these pieces left me asking ‘Why?’

The Leaden Echo a setting for counter-tenor and smallish ensemble of part of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  On the one hand, the musical manner is that of Purcell’s approach to setting English words as filtered through Britten, but without Britten’s economy.  On the other hand, leaving out the Golden Echo means we get something that Britten has already done a great deal better in his setting of the Lyke-Wake Dirge.  It also leaves Hopkins expounding And wisdom is early to despair, which sounds more like A E Housman and is not what GMH meant to say here.  But then I would have had no idea of what William Purefoy was singing without looking at the texts.

Finally Main theme from motion picture Moscow Nights is what it says: high-grade film music.

I very much preferred Desyatnikov’s Russian Seasons.  There the original material had sufficient emotional content and closeness to him to draw out something…good…the refusal to either poke fun or sentimentalise in itself told you something…


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