“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.
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.