Chekalin, Mikhail - Concerto Grosso No. 1


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Boheme Music
Catalog Number: CDBMR 009169
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:24:00

Well, this is quite a long review/commentary now isn't it? Though I think what I have to say is worth reading, I do want to say right at the outset that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this CD. It's not of the usual stuff that I rave about, and it quite a contrast to the metal I've been listening to of late, but being a woman of eclectic tastes? This is progressive in the truest sense, in that it is expanding the definition of music, pushing, prodding, and poking the envelope.

Concerto Grosso No 1 (1991) is mostly a minimalist, liquid affair from Russian composer Mikhail Chekalin, though there are times (the shorter pieces) that deviate from this to some degree. This is the first in a series of reissues of Chekalin's work from 1979 to 1999 by the Russian Boheme label. It was originally released on Melodiya Records in 1991, though the music itself dates from 1989 (though three bonus tracks date from 1990 and 1992). This release includes liner notes in both Russian and English and give a brief overview of Chekalin and his work. Those more familiar with the Russian music scene will better be able to place Chekalin in music history (and in music present) than I. All I can tell you, aside from what is printed in the booklet, is what is contained on the disc itself (by the way, though perhaps Chekalin is not covered specifically, David McConnell has written an article on Russian prog that was published in Background Magazine issue #79).

"Symphony Of Lamentations" combines the two styles or modes on this album, where it is at first very ambient in nature. Vocalizations that sound at once Native American and Arabic float across. Everything is understated, distant, perceived from afar. This is a complicated piece, but then like almost everything else on this album, there is a lot happening at once, though you may not notice it on the first listen through. Throughout a lamenting voice wails, but is very low in the mix. And then, about just a little over halfway through, sounds start to "pop" out of the mix. By the end, has become quite a wonderful cacophony sound ? with jazzy elements.

The first of the longer tracks, "Mediation (Russian Mistery)," is very serious and murky. By murky I don't mean in terms of production, but in effect. Like the depths of the ocean, where sunlight barely gets through (and even deeper, doesn't at all). This piece evolves in a leisurely pace, though the harmonics and effects used create a feeling of tense drama. That "something is lurking" feeling. Shapes are sensed but not seen; movement of the water against your skin only suggests that something has passed by. But there are other points where we are nearer the surface, where visibility is clearer, though still not crystal clear. Hearing the sound of birds chirping (or what is mimicking the sound of birds chirping) brings us to this surface. But you don't really notice right away that our journey has taken us from the bottom of the ocean to the surface, because your perspective has changed slowly, fluidly. Sparse piano notes quiver in the background, while ethereal vocalizations waft in and out.

So you don't get richly symphonic compositions and memorable melodies. There is no repeated motif that you can hum along with (not really even on the whole album, though "A Pagan Vocalise" is an exception). It is more like the randomness of life that somehow seems to flow from one point to another. But not the singular strand of one life, but several, all happening concurrently. Life is tide pool that is the whole universe ? a macrocosm. Chekalin accomplishes this with keyboards, synthesizers, percussion and vocals, but these are used more as means of achieving a certain tone color, a certain effect. There are so many layers, that it seems like a living organism (Of course, the artwork that appears on the cover reflects this "aquaticness," but if you hadn't seen that first, you'd be left with this same conclusion).

And just when you think you've sussed this album out, the playful "Fascination" begins. Here we get cheerful toots from the keyboard, understated martial percussion ? there is both the sense of the coming parade (though not as bright and bombastic as that would imply) and, keeping with our aquatic theme, frolicking dolphins. A happy and blissfully unaware school of dolphins actually, that's what comes to mind. Piano notes are plucked and struck. Thought still retaining a minimalist feel, this is more "in the moment" than the more ethereal pieces. The music is more up front, and the sense of murkiness is gone.

"Chamber Music" made me think I was in a retirement home for senile opera singers and classical musicians? (and, the title ? not the music ? of Genesis' "Home By The Sea" popped into mind) They all begin in their own world ? an operatic "female" voice over here (it's Chekalin), piano over there, strings over here ? and yet, their worlds happen to dovetail. And if it is opera and classical in "Chamber Music," it's big band and vaudeville we hear in "To Appreciate The March." The brassy sounds of horns is played against a repeating, bulbous and elastic motif of... pogo sticks on a trampoline? um?yeh. Over this, we get more female sounding vocals. Quirky is an understatement. Different it certainly is.

"Movie Music" is aptly titled? and keeping on theme, it has the same kind of dangerous power as the theme from Jaws has, though this doesn't sound a bit like that piece. But, it has a heart-pounding percussion that intensifies as the drama is heightens?levels off when there is faux calm? then resurges as the danger returns. It's terrifyingly thrilling, exciting?

As counter balance, this is followed up by "Light Melody." A brief piece that echoes the aquatic/nature feel of the rest of the album and includes some of the same drama (dark rumbling tones that appear briefly)?

The three bonus tracks include the nearly 20-minute "Dissonata." It keeps with the other pieces on the album, and Chekalin's style (as you'll see when in our review of Concerto Gross No. 2), but it less underworldy and more otherworldly. Sonic effects still skitter and pop and slide across at (seemingly) random points, but here the tones are sharper, squeakier. It's not how I think of dissonance, though by definition it is. It also includes some gentle piano-like tones in the background, though like everything else, these only make a brief appearance. Like "Meditation," there is a sense of movement as well? of strange and wonderful alien creatures as seen from an alien safari. While some of the tones are playful, there's nothing playful about the arrangement. I mean, this is a serious expedition, though the aliens (which might just as easily be hitherto unseen earth species) may be comical in their actions (comical from a human perspective).

Seek this out.


Tracklisting:
Meditation (Russian Mistery) (14:37) / Fascination (4.15) / Chamber Music (3:14) / To Appreciate The March (4:46) / Symphony Of Lamentations (11:25) / Movie Music (4:04) / Light Melody (1:53) / Bonus Tracks: Dissonata (19:57) / A Pagan Vocalise (4:20) / Another Music For Piano ? I (3:53)

Musicians:
Mikhail Chekalin - keyboards, synthesizers, percussion, vocal

Discography:
Vocalise IN Rapide (?/1988)
Post-Pop ? Non-Pop (?/1989)
Meditative Music For The Decomposed Electro-organ 1 (1982?/1991)
Meditative Music For The Decomposed Electro-organ 2 (1983?/1991)
Meditative Music For The Decomposed Electro-organ 3 (1983?/1991)
Practical Music Making 1 (1986?)
Between Spring And Autumn By Stealth (1986/1991)
Practical Music Making 2 (1988?/1991)
The Green Symphony/The Ritual ? Night For Voices (1988?)
Board State (1988/1991)
The Symphony-Phonogram (1989/1992)
Introduction Onto Intuction (1989/1991)
Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1989/1991/2000)
Concerto Grosso No. 2 (1989/1991/2000)
Russian Mystery (1992)
Synthesizer Music From Estonia And Russia (1991)
Night Pulsation (1993)
Film-Music-1 (1993)
Double Album With The Symphony In New Age Style 1 (1993)
Double Album With the Symphony In New Age Style 2 (1995)
Album With The Symphony (?)
Nonconformist (1996)
Porcelain God (1997)
Avoid The Desire For Cutting And Piercing Objects (1999)
Romantic Vampires (1999)
Last Seasons (2001)
Saturn. Izdeliye No. (2002)
FortePIANO (2003)
Meditative Music For A Prepared Organ, Vol. 1 (recorded 1979-83) (2003)
Meditative Music For A Prepared Organ, Vol. 2(recorded 1979-83) (2003)
The Symphony - Phonogram, Vol. 3 (recorded 1980-89) (2004)
Green Symphony / Borderline State, Vol. 4 (recorded 1980-88) (2004)
Between Spring And Autumn By Stealth, Vol. 5 (recorded 1986-93) (2004)
A Pagan Suite (recorded 1990-91) (2004)
Poruganie Patsphika (recorded 2005) (2007)
Paradigm Transitions (recorded 1996) (2007)
Untimely (recorded 2000-02) (2007)

Genre: Other

Origin RU

Added: January 12th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Hits: 1736
Language: english

  

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