Concertos for Orchestra 4 & 5
Shchedrin (born 1932), a populist composer with a communist past, is enjoying unprecedented exposure in the UK, thanks to two influential conductors.
Valery Gergiev is making Shchedrin’s music an important thread of his concerts next season with the London Symphony Orchestra, and Kirill Karabits has chosen Shchedrin’s music for his first CD as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. You wonder what two such eminent musicians see in Shchedrin’s idiom, which inhabits a no-man’s land between Shostakovich and Copland.
Occasionally these orchestral concertos sound as if they might be heading in the direction of symphonic substance – only to dissolve into trivia. With smatterings of Russian folksong and echoes of church bells, they are harmless to listen to and flawlessly orchestrated – as is a third piece on the disc, a gentle tribute to Takemitsu. But Karabits can’t mask the fact that Shchedrin is a derivative note-spinner.
The Bournemouth Symphony plays the music superbly: can’t Naxos find this underrated orchestra something better to record?