Ukranian-born Sergey Zhukov’s profound and powerful music is here revealed in the premiere recordings of two works for piano trio and orchestra.
Concerto Mystery was commissioned by The Bekova Sisters, the performers requiring a work which could share a programme with Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Immediately after this, and again at the Bekovas’ request, he wrote his Concerto Grosso for a trio of soloists and orchestra, employing material from his own Partita for unaccompanied violin.
The concept of the mystery-play accounts for the original forces required to play Concerto Mystery: besides the main (principale) trio of soloists, there is an alternative (contra) trio whose players are seated at the edges and at the back of the platform. This plan physically suggests the coming together within the mystery-play of the participants with their doubles, the latter reflecting the dark aspects of each individual’s nature.
The chief purport of the action is the victory over the negative aspects of one’s soul. Whilst the composer stresses that this is’pure’ music which develops according to its own internal laws, one can detect certain points of significance: the appearance of a theme by Beethoven in C major early on, the octave descent of the solo instruments into the dark, rumbling orchestral depths, the recurrent interuption of an important chorale theme by the chaotic sounds of Death and Darkness and, finally, the breaking away from the principale solo instruments at the ecstatic climax to the work, as the contra soloists are literally forced out of their respective registers.
In Concerto Grosso, the initials of the soloists (E, A and B) acquire musical significance. Here, there is no unified trio of soloists but, rather, a piano and string duet which are set in opposition to one another.
"... an exhilarating journey stylistically rooted in both American minimalism and the ecstatic, florid manner of Scriabin, Zhukov’s early 20th century compatriot ... a brightly detailed performance of this work ..."
Indianapolis Star (USA) - 14 March 1999
"... The piece is presented in a highly theatrical manner, in order to depict the struggle between the forces of darkness and light. The movement from melodic harmony of Beethoven’s theme to its dissonant dissolution and finally back again to an optimistic, harmonic resolution, makes this work challenging, yet rewarding ..."
The Latest - March 1998
"Chandos is to be commended for revealing the fascinating work of Ukranian composer Sergey Zhukov ... the concerto is intense and gripping. The Bekova sisters give a vibrant performance, tackling head-on the virtuosic and creative demands of Zhukov’s wild textures ..."
Catherine Nelson - The Strad - July 1998