Alexander Knaifel: Lukomoriye

Oleg Malov, Tatiana Melentieva, Piotr Migunov, Lege Artis Choir

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The fourth New Series album from the St Petersburg-based composer Alexander Knaifel may be his most wide-ranging to date, voyaging from the sacred to the secular and back again via several inspired detours. It includes two Prayers to the Holy Spirit, movingly performed by the Lege Artis Choir.  Tatiana Melentieva sings Bliss, based on Alexander Pushkin’s poem, and  the great Russian poet is cross-referenced with  St Ephraim the Syrian in O Lord of All My Life (A Poem and a Prayer) sung by Piotr Migunov.  Oleg Malov, who accompanies both singers, is called upon to internalize texts in four further solo piano pieces.  A mad tea party lives up to its title, with a surreal Wonderland spirit.  This Child (after the Gospel of St Luke), A Confession and title piece Lukomoriye (both after Pushkin) are luminously quiet, and quietly magical.
Das vierte New-Series-Album des in St. Petersburg lebenden Komponisten Alexander Knaifel könnte sein bisher ausgreifendstes sein – eine Reise vom Sakralen zum Säkularen und wieder zurück, über verschiedenartig inspirierte Umwege. Dazu gehören zwei Prayers to the Holy Spirit, rührend angestimmt vom Lege Artis Choir, und Bliss, nach einem Gedicht von Alexander Puschkin, vorgetragen von Tatiana Melentieva. Piotr Migunov singt O Lord of All My Life (A Poem and a Prayer), in dem der russische Dichter auf Ephräm den Syrer trifft. Für seine vier Solo-Darbietungen ist der Pianist und Begleiter Oleg Malov dazu aufgefordert, jeweils einen literarischen Text zu verinnerlichen: A mad tea party macht dabei seinem Namen alle Ehre, steht im Geiste eines surrealen Wunderlands. This Child (nach dem Lukas-Evangelium), A Confession sowie das titelgebende Lukomoriye (beide nach Pushkin) sind glänzend ruhig – und ruhen magisch.
Featured Artists Recorded

February 2012, The Smolny Cathedral, St. Petersburg

Original Release Date

20.04.2018

  • 1O Comforter (Prayer to the Holy Spirit)
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    05:23
  • 2A mad tea-party, Royal version
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    08:12
  • 3Bliss
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    04:37
  • 4This Child
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    09:40
  • 5Confession
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    07:22
  • 6O Lord of all my life
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    16:00
  • 7O Heavenly King (Prayer to the Holy Spirit)
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    06:53
  • 8Lukomoriye (fairy tale of gentle breezes)
    (Alexander Knaifel)
    04:35
Die Stücke bedrängen den Hörer nicht, sie laden ihn ein, sich zu versenken […] Oleg Malov und der exzellente Sänger Piotr Migunov finden hier genau jene Ruhe und Weltenferne, die diese Klänge brauchen.
Marcus Stäbler, Fono Forum
 
This is the fourth ECM release of music by from Russian composer Alexander Knaifel, following the likes of ‘In Air Clear and Unseen’, and forms a wide-ranging collection of pieces that deal with both sacred and secular themes. […] This is indeed a fascinating and at times unsettling recording. Alexander Knaifel’s surreal treatments of both voices and instruments take us from relatively conventional sacred comforts into spaces that confront and confound expectations.
Dominy Clements, Music Web International
 
Es sind stille geistliche Stücke, Gebete, textgebunden, auch wenn sie nur für Klavier allein komponiert sind. ‚Confession‘ (Bekenntnis) etwa nach einem Gedicht von Alexander Puschkin klingt fast lieblich. In den Chorstücken entfaltet sich der wunderbare östliche Klang. Das letzte Stück der CD, mit dem flüsternden Igor Malov am ‚magischen Klavier‘ ist eine märchenhafte Erzählung. ‚Lukumoriye‘, so der Titel auch der CD, erinnert an ein Traumland. Ob es das ‚wahre Russland‘ ist, das Puschkin in seinem Text beschwört?  
Thomas Meyer, Jazz’n’More
 
These musicians have appeared on earlier Knaifel discs, and the composer himself is listed as the recording’s supervisor, so it seems fair to say that these performances probably are definitive. In his ‘Companion to 20th-Century Music’, Norman Lebrecht wrote of Knaifel: ‘Russian iconoclast, writing slow, quiet and unsettling music that passes from one instrument to another when it is good and ready…Many of his scores are unperformed, perhaps unperformable.’ It is good to see Lebrecht proven wrong by this fascinating release.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare
 
Knaifel’s music uniquely blends erudition and experimentation. He seeks in his music to celebrate the nature of sound itself. […] ‘Lukomoriye’ consists of two choral numbers written in the style of Russian Orthodox liturgical music, a song for soprano and piano, a song for bass/baritone and piano, and four pieces for piano with percussion, sometimes with whispering voices. Each piece has a text—in the instrumental numbers, the text is supposedly intoned inaudibly—derived from sources such as the Bible, St. Ephrem the Syrian, Lewis Carroll, Orthodox hymnology and, primarily, from Pushkin, especially from the poet’s epic tale, ‘Ruslan and Ludmila’. […] The individual performances are stellar. Soprano Tatiana Melentieva has frequently performed Knaifel’s music. Her vocal timbre is light, almost childlike, and her verbal agility in ‘Bliss’, which is essentially a patter song, is astounding. Bass/baritone Piotr Migunov movingly covers a range from the uppermost reaches of bass tessitura far into its lower depths in ‘O Lord of all my life,’ an achingly fervent prayer for spiritual purification. Pianist Oleg Malov also has recorded a number of Knaifel works, and he proves to be a sensitive, versatile musician of the highest caliber […] The Lege Artis Choir is given the most conventional music in ‘Lukomoriye’ and, under the direction of Boris Abalian, colorfully demonstrate their ability to reveal the magic and sense of awe inherent in much Russian liturgical music.
Arlo McKinnon, Opera News
“Knaifel’s music is not easy listening, but its beautiful and deceptive simplicity is uplifting. Oleg Malov understands it profoundly. Every note counted, thanks to his impeccable tone, timing and subtle physical language. Not just the sounds, but the silences too, were full of sustained expectation.”
- Martin Adams, Irish Times
 
 
The fourth New Series album from Russian composer Alexander Knaifel may be his most wide-ranging to date, voyaging from the sacred to the secular and back again via several inspired detours. It includes two Prayers to the Holy Spirit, movingly performed by the Lege Artis Choir. The composer’s wife, Tatiana Melentieva, sings Bliss, based on Alexander Pushkin’s poem, and the great Russian poet is cross-referenced with St Ephraim the Syrian in O Lord of All My Life (A Poem and a Prayer) sung by Piotr Migunov. Oleg Malov, one of Alexander Knaifel’s closest associates for more than thirty years, accompanies both singers and is called upon to internalize texts - playing as if singing, a Knaifel speciality - in four further solo piano pieces. A mad tea party lives up to its title, with a surreal Alice in Wonderland spirit. This Child (after the Gospel of St Luke), A Confession and title piece Lukomoriye (both after Pushkin) are luminously quiet, and quietly magical. The scope of the musical material – by turns playful, devotional, lyrical – defies typecasting, just as it testifies to Kanifel’s eclectic imagination. “The music comes from up there,” Knaifel has said, pointing skyward, “what’s important for a composer is to listen to it, and get it down on paper.”
 
Alexander Knaifel was born in 1943 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but grew up in St. Petersburg. His music, described by the Frankfurter Rundschau as "one of the most important revelations of recent years", belongs to that circle of near-contemporaries and associates from the former Soviet lands which includes Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, Tigran Mansurian, Valentin Silvestrov and Sofia Gubaidulina. But, although critics have found echoes of Pärt, Tavener and Górecki in Knaifel’s quest for musical beauty, he has an idiom that is entirely his own, with its own expressive power.
 
ECM’s documentation of Knaifel’s work began with Svete Tikhiy (recorded 1997 and 2000), with the Keller Quartet, pianist Oleg Malov, and Tatiana Melentieva. Amicta Sole, recorded 2000 to 2001, featured the great Mstislav Rostropovich, who had been Knaifel’s cello teacher at the Moscow Conserbatory; Rostropovich was subsequently the dedicatee of the 2006 recording Blazhenstva, which also featured The Lege Artis Choir.
 
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Born in Gorki (Nizhny-Novgorod) in 1947, Oleg Malov entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory from which he graduated as a pianist and where he took a post-graduate course under the supervision of Samari Savshinski and Natan Perelman. Since 1968, Oleg Malov has given many recitals in Russia and abroad. Within his broad repertoire, he has paid particular attention to contemporary music.
 
Tatiana Melentieva grew up in St. Petersburg, where her father, Ivan Vassilievich Melentiev, was one of the leading soloists of the Maryinski Theatre. She has toured in the US, Japan, England, Germany, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. She has appeared with pianists – Grigori Sokolov, Alexei Lubimov, Oleg Malov, Sophia Vakman – and leading orchestras conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Mstislav Rostropovich, Saulus Sondetskis, Igor Blajkov, Alexander Lazarev and others.
The Lege Artis Chamber Choir was established by conductor Boris Abalian in 1987 and won prizes in the first years of its existence, at five international competitions (Neerpelt, Belgium, in 1990; Montreux, Switzerland, and Tours, France, in 1991; Darmstadt, Germany, in 1995; Torrevieja, Spain, in 1997). The choir has emphasized 20th century and contemporary music in its repertoire, performing works of Stravinsky, Debussy, Poulenc, Hindemith, Penderecki, and others, as well as St. Petersburg's remarkable composers: Alexander Knaifel, Dmitry Smirnov, Valery Gavrilin and Sergei Slonimsky.
The music of Lukomoriye was recorded at Smolny Cathedral and the St Petersburg Recording Studio, under the supervision of Alexander Knaifel.