Airat Ichmouratov Symphony a tonal masterwork

Some of my classical music friends are convinced that the art form died in the 1920s — and Schoenberg killed it. Contemporary music is uniformly academic, difficult to perform, and even harder to listen to. Airat Ichmouratov is but one of several contemporary composers who refute those stereotypes time and again.

Ichmouratov is a true eclectic. Born in Russia, Ichmouratov lives and works in Montreal. Though a practicing Muslim, he also has a deep love of Klezmer music, and even plays clarinet in a Montreal-based Klezmer ensemble.

Ichmouratov fuses classical and popular styles together to create music that’s engaging, substantial, and accessible to both serious and casual listeners. Ichouratov is the master of orchestral color, as the three works in this release demonstrate.

Ichmouratov’s Symphony is subtitled “On the Ruins of an Ancient Fort.” His orchestrations effectively evoke impressions of this fort and its rich history. What I best enjoyed about Ichmouratov’s music was its originality. Contemporary tonal music can often sound like movie music. Not here. Ichmouratov’s orchestrations are refreshingly different, without sounding derivative.

The Maslentia Overture (2013) evoke the celebrations of the week preceding Lent. Here Ichmouratov uses elements of Gregorian chant to set the stage. The Youth Overture, fittingly, is a high-energy work that seems to brim with optimism. This is its recording world premiere — performed by the orchestra and conductor Ichmouratov composed the overture for.

L’Orchestre de la Francophonie has a good recorded sound. The ensemble blend is quite pleasing, and the soloists performed with exceptional musicality. An album of exceptional music, and one I’ll be sharing with my anti-modernist friends.

 Airat Ichmouratov: Symphony, Op. 55, “On the Ruins of an Ancient Fort”
“Youth” Overture; “Maslentisa” Overture
Orchestre de la Francophonie; Jean-Philippe Tremblay, conductor
Chandos 20172

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