& David (1946-) Avshalomov
Orchestral Works Vol. 3
Marco Polo 8.225035
Total Playing Time: 1:14:40
Aaron Avshalomov : Piano Concerto
I. Allegro non troppo 15:37
II. Adagio 9:04
III. Finale: Rondo 8:00
Aaron Avshalomov : Symphony No. 2 in E minor
I. Lento: Allegro moderato 10:37
II. Andante 8:58
III. Scherzo 4:47
IV. Finale: Quasi marcia 8:54
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
David Avshalomov : Elegy for Strings 8:43
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
|Aaron Avshalomov spent nearly thirty years in China, lured there by the
sounds of its street music, its ancient opera, costumes and legends, all
encountered as a child in the Chinese quarter of Nikolaďevsk, his Siberian
birthplace. At the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 he escaped,
travelling through North China en route to the USA where he met and married
Esther Magidson in San Francisco. Finding life there hard, however, and with
the sounds of China still in his head, he decided to return to China in 1918.
Between then and 1947 he worked to evolve a synthesis of Chinese musical
elements with Western techniques of composing for symphony orchestra and
Making his living in Bejing primarily as a bookseller, Avshalomov composed and produced his first opera, Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) in 1924. During a sojourn in the USA from 1925 to 1929, he was able to get a production of it at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York. Returning to China, he continued composing in the Chinese vein while studying not only ancient Chinese classical music, but also folk and temple music, as well as street cries. The music he composed was based on the various five-tone (pentatonic) scales as well as the whole-tone scale and Indian modes. He was very much taken with the 'plaintive and curly' qualities of Chinese melody and he adopted the full panoply of Chinese percussion instruments and ornaments, such as grace-notes and slides.
Almost all his compositions, however, involved the Western orchestra. Although he was self-taught as a composer, he developed a fine skill at orchestration - brilliant and evocative. As to form, when writing symphonies and concertos, he followed the classic/romantic models, but later used unforeseeable shifts of key (modulation) to avoid the potential monotony of the oriental scales. With this palette and a temperament both romantic and poetic, he created between 1933 and 1949 a considerable output which included The Dream of Wei Lien, The Soul of the Ch'in, Buddha and the Five Planetary Deities, a Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, the First Symphony, and The Hutungs of Peking, all of which were successfully presented in Shanghai.
All the while he encouraged Chinese composers to cherish their own musical heritage, and to avoid jumping on the various Western band-wagons, but to evolve a new kind of Chineseness. Many of those Chinese musicians are leading figures today. During his last three years in China Avshalomov conducted the Shanghai Symphony. All in all, he was a major figure in the cultural life of China up to the time of the Revolution of 1949.
The high point of that career were the elaborate productions of his music-drama The Great Wall which received the patronage of both Mme Sun Yat Sen and Mme Chiang Kai Shek - the two Soong sisters who ended up on opposite sides of the Chinese Revolution. Gala performances (more than thirty) of Avshalomov's masterpiece were given for the galaxy of foreign residents and visitors then shining in China, not to forget the Chinese musical community.
During World War II Avshalomov and his second wife, Tatiana, were kept under house arrest by the Japanese, along with many of his associates, In 1947 he emigrated to the USA where I had established myself and my family.
Despite his acclaim in China, when he came to America that eminence did not translate into a career there. He lived in Los Angeles and New York largely unknown - notwithstanding performances of his works by Stokowski, Monteux and a commission from Koussevitzky. His attempts to bring to the United States the ballet company in Shanghai were continually frustrated; nor was he able to create its like in the USA.
Piano Concerto in G, on Chinese themes and rhythms
Symphony No. 2 in E minor