The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Roman Mints (violin) Maxim Rysanov (viola) Kristine Blaumane (cello) West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra, Mikel Toms (conductor)
Composer: Mozetich, Langer, Schnittke, Bennett

Affairs of the Heart is a 23-minute violin concerto by the Slovenian-born Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich, much inspired by the Minimalism of Philip Glass. Roman Mints makes a noble attempt at infusing the work with drama, but neither the recording nor the work quite do his passionate advocacy justice: the Romanticism Mozetich aspires to just eludes, while a chugging inevitability seems to be there in buckets. Where the work scores is in Mints’s marvellous transition to the vital last section: later passages are carried off extremely well, and prove easily the most atmospheric part of the concerto.      

Everything else is superb. Moscow-born Elena Langer’s Platch reveals a wonderful sensitivity and articulacy: a sense of lamentation  pervades, and the soloist is seen as a ‘mourner’ at a wedding, underlining the symbolic transition a bride then undergoes. The folk-like undertones which culminate in a Yiddish lullaby, eerie clusterings and subtle violin harmonics have the feel of, say, Lutoslawski or James MacMillan in grieving vein. Mints’s mysterious, birdsong-like flutterings over a string drone only add to the intense atmosphere.

No less pleasing is Ed Bennett’s short piece Sometimes it Rains, and it too confirms the adaptability of the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra, formed in 2003. Bennett uses a tape to create a haunting atmosphere akin to Reich’s Different Trains, and some strange, sitar-like effects from the violinist are beautifully conceived. The angry drama of Schnittke’s Concerto for Three is vitally caught too, with viola player Maxim Rysanov distinctive in the striking sequences written for Yuri Bashmet. Overall, the recorded sound works well.    

Roderic Dunnett