It is not without reason that the beginning recalls the opening of Stravinsky’s Sacre. As if in an improvisation, the solo oboe becomes absorbed in melodious reverie. Maria Sournatcheva’s SACD debut itself could not have begun more fittingly: elements of folkloric character pervade this program bringing together works by Moscow composers from three generations. The Göttingen Symphony Orchestra with the conductor Christoph-Mathias Mueller offers the young ARD Competition prizewinner Sournatcheva an accomplished ensemble’s support system. The same orchestra’s devotion to Slavic music recently earned it an ECHO Klassik prize.
The oboe must have appealed to Valery Kikta as a solo instrument, given that he composed four concertos for it. The Ukrainian composer had originally written the one-movement “Belgorod Concerto” for an orchestra enjoying great popularity in Russia and the Soviet Union and featuring folk instruments. The important role played by bells, jingle bells, and other percussion instruments including rattles and even spoons is also clearly audible in the version for symphony orchestra later arranged by Kikta to compensate for the sorely missed brass instruments. Things glisten and glow like melting icicles, and the oboe repeatedly engages in dialogue with the solo percussionists.
Kikta’s third concerto with an accompaniment limited to a string orchestra tends more toward chamber music, and the same may be said of the piece by Andrey Rubtsov, an internationally sought-after oboist born in 1982 who expertly employs the virtuosic resources of his instrument. Rubtsov reflects on his native Russia’s considerable classicistic tradition; a highly atmospheric Larghetto comes between the two rhythmically attractive outer movements, which culminate in a bold and boisterous burlesque likewise posing a supreme challenge to the orchestra.
Andrey Eshpai’s highly ambitious concerto forms the crowning conclusion of this SACD produced in brilliant transparency. The old master of the postwar avantgarde died at the age of ninety in 2015. In his oboe concerto too Eshpai refers to his ethnic roots in the Finno-Ugric people of the Mari; his father before him had collected Mari melodies and committed them to paper. In a compositional style in keeping with modern times, Eshpai conjures up a tonal idiom all of his own lending fascinating new expression to the power of folk art in the multiethnic Russian realm.