Tuesday 10 January 2023

Maxim Shalygin: Six Bagatelles & Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke

Maxim Shalygin: Six Bagatelle & Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke
Maxim Shalygin: Six Bagatelles & Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke; Ihor Zavhorodnii, Andrii Pavlov, Irina Kozlova, Sergey Kozakov and Igor Patsovsky
Reviewed 10 January 2023

Two striking instrumental works by the Netherlands-based Ukrainian composer Maxim Shalygin, recorded by musicians still living in Kyiv

The digital album Six Bagatelles & Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke features two works by the Ukrainian composer Maxim ShalyginSix Bagatelles for two violins is performed by Ihor Zavhorodnii and Andrii PavlovSuite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke for three celli is performed by Irina Kozlova, Sergey Kozakov and Igor Patsovsky. All the performers are Ukrainian musicians, still resident in Kyiv.

Born in Kamianske (formerly Dniprodzerzhynsk) in Ukraine, Maxim Shalygin initially studied in his native city, before going to study with Boris Tishchenko at the N. Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory. Shalygin only spent a year studying in Russia, before returning to Ukraine, and subsequently studied at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with Cornelis de Bondt and Diderik Wagenaar. Shalygin currently lives and works in the Netherlands.

The album begins with the later work, the Six Bagatelles dating from 2015. The six movements hasveunassuming titles, 'Butterflies', 'Aria', 'Toccata', 'Scream', 'Waltz', and 'Capriccio' but there is nothing light about the music. These are highly differentiated but rather concentrated studies in the way two instrumental lines can create a complete work. The first movement short, lively and full of striking textures leads to the far longer 'Aria'. This starts off quiet and intense, but as the movement develops the mood moves from contemplative to something far more demonstrative and anguished, with Shalygin's conventional harmonies replaced by something far edgier. Though the initial mood returns, things are never quite the same. 'Toccata' has music of busy intensity, hardly comfortable at all and at times taking the instruments to extremes of range. 'Scream' begins quietly, but again Shalygin uses changes in harmonic textures to create disturbances. 'Waltz' seems hardly that, the music moving between calm and intensity, dance seeming far away, and the work ends with 'Capriccio' where the capriciousness of the music succeeds in being disturbing.

Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke was written in 2013 whilst Shalygin was in residence at the Izolyatsia Foundation, an artistic enterprise in Donetsk. But a year late the foundation had to evacuate, because of the war in Eastern Ukraine. The work is in six movements, again with unassuming titles, 'Sarabande', 'Baroque rap', 'Threni', 'Waltz', 'Hymn', and 'Lullaby'. 'Sarabande' is slow, dark and serious, remarkably consistent in its atmospheric intensity. Full of distinctive rhythms and a slow yet driving pulse, I am not sure that 'Baroque rap' is either Baroque or rap but it is certainly striking. As with other movements, 'Threni' features a formal structure that is repeatedly disturbed, whilst 'Waltz' is full of music of striking intensity, almost fierceness. There is perhaps something almost folk-like about the initial part of 'Hymn', but Shalygin takes the music in intriguing directions, leading to the final 'Lullaby', a quiet, intense but hardly comforting end.

The music on this disc is a fascinating exploration of instrumental textures, with Shalygin creating structures and then disturbing them in intriguing ways. It is a striking sound world, and makes you keen to hear some of his more recent music.

The recordings were made by musicians who continue to remain in Kyiv today. Under bombardment by drones and rockets, under the threat of their lives, they continue the fight on the cultural front of their native country. Ukrainian contemporary musical environment can be supported via the KCMD fund: en.kcmd.eu/support#h.d4akxaoa2fpa

Maxim  Shalygin: Six Bagatelles for two violins
Ihor Zavhorodnii and Andrii Pavlov (violins)
Maxim Shalygin: Suite-Homage to Alfred Schnittke for three celli
Irina Kozlova, Sergey Kozakov and Igor Patsovsky (cellos)

The album is available for streaming, see linktree.

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