Airat Ichmouratov: Piano Concerto; Viola Concerto No 1. © 2023 Chandos Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

Colourful and Free from Pretence

GEOFF PEARCE explores the music of Airat Ichmouratov

'... committed and convincing ...'


I have been interested in Airat Ichmouratov for a number of years, both as a composer and as a performer. He was born in Russia in 1973 and is described on this disk as a Volga/Tartar-born Canadian composer, conductor and Klezmer clarinettist. He performs frequently and his music is attracting a growing number of followers as it is exotic, tuneful and easy to understand. I enjoy his fresh approach to composition and I am sure that there will be many readers out there that also share my feelings.

The Piano Concerto was written in 2012-2013 but sat in a drawer for nearly ten years before the composer, with Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, the performer on this recording and a fine pianist from Montreal, revised and have now presented it here.

The work, his opus 40, is in three movements. The musical style is unashamedly romantic, virtuosic and somewhat rhapsodic in style. The work has boundless energy and often quick changes of mood. The first movement is typical of the whole work and could be presented as a stand-alone piece. There are many changes of mood, from wild virtuosic moments to dramatic moments and very tranquil reflective passages as well, with some great writing for the orchestra and some very difficult solo flourishes for the various instruments. The woodwind get a real work out, and the piano part is in the grand tradition of late nineteenth century Russian piano concertos.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Andante affettuoso (Piano Concerto)
(CHSA 5281 track 1, 8:14-9:00) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The second movement, quite a contrast from the first, is rather reflective and wistful, and there are moments of sorrow too, without that sentiment ever becoming overwhelming. It grows in power as the work progresses, but the slow reflective mood predominates and the movement closes as serenely as it starts. There is great beauty here.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Grave solenne (Piano Concerto)
(CHSA 5281 track 2, 11:02-11:59) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The third movement shakes things up, right from the beginning, with a rather fiery opening which gives way to a light-hearted dance. The composer shows his skill, not only as an orchestrator, but in his ability to write ear-catching music that will capture the listener's imagination. Like the first movement, a lot of different musical ideas are presented, but this works without overwhelming, and it is easy to follow the flow. The easy accessibility of this music makes it very attractive, and the fine orchestra and pianist make this a thrilling recording.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Allegro moderato (Piano Concerto)
(CHSA 5281 track 3, 8:23-9:20) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The Viola Concerto (2004) was written for the soloist on this recording, Elvira Misbakhova, as a work for her PhD performance. She wanted something that was both lyrical and virtuosic, and this work is rather more sombre in feeling than the more showy piano concerto.

The first movement is expansive and reflective, and whilst there are contrasts, the movement appears to me to be much more cohesive than the piano concerto, and the soul of the often maligned or overshadowed instrument is revealed. There are certainly some major moments where the soloist's virtuosic skills are showcased, but this is less of a feature of this movement than the soulful and expressive nature. Indeed there is a moment, half way through this movement, that reminds me of similar moments in Rachmaninov's second piano concerto.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Andante (Viola Concerto No 1)
(CHSA 5281 track 4, 8:11-9:07) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The second movement is in five sections over nearly fifteen minutes, and is, I believe, the soul of this concerto. The work is, by and large, a lament, I believe, and there are moments when I was moved to tears, because of the sheer beauty of the writing, particularly with a beautiful melody that starts as a clarinet solo.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Largo (Viola Concerto No 1)
(CHSA 5281 track 5, 4:45-5:27) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The last movement is joyous in its dance-like and impassioned nature and dispels the rather sombre characteristics of the previous two movements. This will be loved by many because it is joyous, easily accessible and totally devoid of any pretension.

Listen — Airat Ichmouratov: Allegro – Presto (Viola Concerto No 1)
(CHSA 5281 track 6, 2:19-3:13) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The performance by soloists and orchestra is committed and convincing and the recording quality very good. The pieces complement each other and I believe that most listeners and buyers will enjoy the works as much as I do.

I believe that Airat Ichimouratov is a composer who will become increasingly popular as his music becomes more widely known. It is colourful and free from pretence. It is honest and written from the heart. Both of these works are quite different from each other but I have to say that I did like the Viola Concerto the best. I do hope this composer finds a wider audience, and it is great to see that this is the third Chandos Records disc featuring this fine composer.

Copyright © 5 May 2023 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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