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Issued in time for the 60th birthday of the composer from St Petersburg, “Between Two Waves” is the first ECM disc devoted entirely to Victor Kissine’s music. It follows on, chronologically and conceptually, from two earlier New Series recordings (ECM 1883 and ECM 2202), both of which featured Gidon Kremer and his associates.

It was while working with Kremer and friends on the realization of his luminous orchestration of Schubert’s Quartet in G Major in 2003 that Kissine began to consider the creative possibilities of a new piece that would be “orchestral but intimate - a kind of ‘concerto in watercolour’.” This was the conceptual idea that set in motion the composition “Barcarola”, for violin solo, string orchestra and percussion.

All three pieces on the present disc of premiere recordings are dedicated to their respective interpreters, and all draw inspiration from the poetry of Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky. The three compositions were recorded at the Lockenhuas Festival 2011 and form “a kind of cycle” in the words of the composer. A unifying factor is “a flavour of the sea”. The topography of St Petersburg, city of canals (“the Venice of the North”) may also be reflected in the project, Kissine says: “Right bank, left bank and the two open arms of the bridge in between. The “Duo After Osip Mandelstam” [for viola and violoncello] begins and ends with a see breeze, while the waves in “Between Two Waves” [concerto for piano and string orchestra] unfurl right up to ‘Barcarola’.” The pieces are also linked by references to Bach, explicit in the Duo and implied in “Between Two Waves” and “Barcarola”.

The music’s signature, however is unmistakably Kissine’s. “Many experiences and emotions – friendship, admiration and affinity – lie beneath the surface of this reticent musical language,” Belgian critc Frans C. Lemaire has noted. “[It] prefers soft murmurings to loud pronouncements, and closely restricts the development of the melodic material. [Kissine’s] music does not celebrate vain and noisy human activity, but seeks to recapture a kind of lost harmony which – far removed from the world – is borne up by the mysterious voices of silence.“

Victor Kissine was born on March 15, 1953 in Saint Petersburg and studied at the city’s Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. Since 1990, he has lived in Belgium, where he was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 2008. Kissine is a professor of music analysis and orchestration at the Royal Conservatory of Mons, and at the INSAS graduate school in Brussels.

His compositional activity embraces a wide range of genres, including works for symphony orchestra and concertos, chamber music for soloists and ensembles, vocal and choral works, two operas and ballets as well as numerous film scores.

Awarded by the Tokyo Irino Prize Foundation in 1995, he was composer-in-residence of the ensemble Musiques Nouvelles (1998 – 2000) and received commissions from leading soloists, chamber groups and orchestras in Europe and in the USA. His music has been played at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (1997, 1998), Carnegie Hall (2010) and Lincoln Center, New York (2003, 2006), and at the festivals of Salzburg (2010), Lockenhaus (where he was composer-in-residence in 2004 and 2011), Ars Musica (Belgium), Musica (France), La Jolla, Music Mountain, Music Lives (USA), ISCM World Days.

“Post-scriptum”, an orchestral piece commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and premiered under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas in March 2010 at Davies Hall, SF, was also performed during the national tour of the Orchestra. In 2011, ECM recorded Kissine’s second Piano Trio, “Zerkalo” (Mirror), performed by Gidon Kremer, Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė and Khatia Buniatischvili.

CD booklet of “Between The Waves” includes an introduction to the compositions by Victor Kissine, in French, German and English.

© Studio Svengali, October 2022
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