Symphonic Fanfares (A Festive Overture for Symphony Orchestra), op. 38

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            Shchedrin is a distinguished contemporary Russian composer, whose active career since his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory in 1955 has led him to compose a large number of pieces in an varied field of genres.    Operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber works, piano works, concertos, and vocal music—all have been his bailiwick.  Sometimes it seems as though the Russian portion of American symphonic repertoire has come to be dominated almost exclusive by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and a few others to a lesser degree (let’s consider Stravinsky as special case).  So, it’s a treat to hear an example of the music of one who is clearly among the most respected composers of contemporary Russia.

            Shchedrin is highly acclaimed in the both the East and the West, recipient of many honors and recognitions, and is active as a concert pianist.   It is evident that the style of his music in his early career undoubtedly was shaped by official Soviet prescriptions in art, it is equally clear that his later career reflects the artistic freedom that he and his fellow musicians have enjoyed in the last several decades.   His style has varied during his life as a composer, but it is all marked by an essential artistic integrity and broad appeal.   His intellectual curiosity has led him from the use of folk song material to the employment of the avant-garde serial, collage, and aleatoric techniques so beloved of “progressive” composers of the 1960s and 70s.  Later, even jazz and pop music surfaced in his style.

            Subtitled, “A Festive Overture of Symphony Orchestra,” Symphonic Fanfares dates from 1967.  Shostakovich, of course is famous for his Festive Overture, so it is interesting to hear Shchedrin’s take on a genre so brilliantly executed by his close colleague.  Shchedrin is a master of brilliant, colorful scoring for the orchestra, and a man whose humanity enables a varied insight into human emotions.  Symphonic Fanfares is a relatively short composition, with a not unexpected emphasis on bold and dramatic brass writing, including a chorale for those instruments that almost invokes Tchaikovsky. 

--Wm. E. Runyan

© 2015 William E. Runyan