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Elena Firsova - twenty years of new music in the UK

Meditation in the Japanese Garden, Op. 54 (1992) Spring Sonata, Op. 27 (1982) String Quartet No. 8 ‘The Stone Guest’ (1995); Hymn to Spring, Op. 64 (1993); A Triple Portrait Op. 130 (World Premiere); The Night Demons, Op. 62 (1993) Tender is the Sorrow, Op. 130 (2011- UK premiere)

Marsyas Trio: Helen Vidovich – flute Valerie Welbanks - cello Fei Ren - piano
Ligeti String Quartet: Mandhira de Saram – violin Patrick Dawkins – violin Richard Jones – viola Valerie Welbanks - cello

The Forge, London 25 April 2012

Emigré composers Elena Firsova and her husband Dmitri Smirnov have become well established in UK; their pianist daughter Alissa is training to become a conductor and their son Philip is establishing himself as a visual artist.

This celebratory evening given by two groups who share their cellist, and came together for a final quintet, showed that beauty of sound, even reaching ecstacy, are central to Elena's compositional voice, which eschews the modernism which was dominating British musical composition when they settled here.

20 years on, things are far more fluid in 21st C music, and maybe Firsova's time will be coming? Latterly she has become far more prolific, but many of her works have not reached the concert going public.

Choice of well contrasted items for a concert like this is important and too many of the pieces we heard were rather similar; predominantly slow music, with decorative arabesques, particularly for flute and the excellent pianist. A danger, which should be addressed in programming a new CD under preparation, is her tendency to finish with increasingly slow and protracted endings. The flutist, who effectively leads the Marsyas Trio, needs to phrase and characterise her music more vividly for their projected Firsova CD.

Firsova's 10th String Quartet (included in a well received CD) responded to the sadness of the melancholy beginning of the finale of Beethoven's Op. 18/6; No 8, which alludes to Schubert's last quartet, had some of the most interesting music heard tonight, and showed the Ligeti String Quartet to advantage.





Peter Grahame Woolf (text & photos)