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ClassicsOnline Home » PAVLOVA, A.: Symphony No. 6 / Thumbelina Suite (Moscow Tchaikovsky Symphony, Baton)
The highly romantic music of Alla Pavlova, a Russian composer now resident in the USA, has been praised for its ‘surreal serenity…woven with unflinching sadness, without concessions to short attention spans and all within the long émigré tradition of nostalgia for homeland’ (MusicWeb) and its ‘integrity and good old-fashioned craft’ (Fanfare on Sulamith – 8.557674). These traits are amply evident in her highly emotional Symphony No. 6, inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting The Starry Night and dedicated to the tormented artist, and the delightful suite from her ballet Thumbelina, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.
Alla Pavlova (b. 1952)
Symphony No. 6 • Thumbelina Suite
My Fifth Symphony was recorded in June 2006; I certainly had no plans to compose another any time soon, but in the autumn the music came to me and I started to draft a new score. At this time I had other urgent work to do and trips to make, and so was only able to finish a draft in August 2007, completing the work, handwritten as usual, in November. Then I mailed it to a computer service. From mid January until the end of April I proofread the score numerous times.
By the end of April I had also completed my ballet suite, Thumbelina, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale. Then came more travels. I had no time to send Thumbelina to the computer service, so I chose five movements from the ballet suite and wrote orchestral parts in time for the recording, in June, of the Sixth Symphony and Thumbelina in Moscow.
Symphony No. 6 is dedicated to Vincent van Gogh. A reproduction of his painting The Starry Night is above the piano in my study. To me, Vincent’s life is like a flash of lightning in the night sky. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent once wondered why one could not travel to stars as to a destination on a map, that is, “to take death to reach a star”.
I have the same feelings for my symphonies as I do for my own child. They each have names: for example the Third Symphony is “Joan”, the Sixth is “Vincent”…There is no program behind the music, but perhaps they share, to some degree, the same view: that life, filled with endless energy and creativity, is a synthesis of joy and sorrow.
Symphony No. 6 is in G minor; G minor, however, is only the ‘frame’, for the work contains many modulations and a full spectrum of keys, with the tonic, in fact, remaining hidden until the last moment.
There are three important themes in the first movement:
The major theme starts in G minor. After a short introduction it develops through a progression of many keys: G, C, E, C sharp, F sharp, A, B flat minor, to mention but a few. This theme evolves and culminates spiritually in the third movement, appearing first in G major.
There are two secondary themes, one slow and another fast. Both begin in E minor and travel through, in the first case, E, C, A minor (and other keys). In the second theme the progression is E, F, A flat, E flat, B flat, C sharp, and G minor. In short, G and E minor are the most important keys in the first movement. The second theme (the slow one) plays a crucial rôle in the whole cycle. It develops in the first and second movements, and in the Finale. After each fast and intensive section comes a slow one, which may seem to be the same theme; but often this is only an illusion owing to similarities of tempo, rhythm or harmony. The melody, however, is always new and more developed.
The next fast theme in the first movement starts in E minor and develops further in the Finale.
In each movement some themes appear only once, as an emotional statement for that particular moment, but others are usually interrelated through tiny melodic elements. I will not analyse the symphony here. I would only like to say that my favourite theme in the symphony appears first in the middle of the second movement: it starts in B flat minor and develops through numerous modulations here and in the Finale. To me this theme represents Joy and the soul of Vincent…I should also say that I imagined a somewhat different Finale from this recorded version: one performed more slowly and flexibly. Performers, however, always have their own interpretation.
I was thinking about Thumbelina for a long time until I finally summoned up enough courage to start another ballet. The libretto is a fantasy, a kind of immigrant’s story, performed by animals, in which Thumbelina and the Swallow fly to a far off land where everyone is happy. Thumbelina has some touching adventures: the story is sad and funny, and it has a happy ending, as all fairy-tales are supposed to have. The music is mostly romantic in style and, for this recording, is in five movements:
1. Introduction. This is also the theme of Thumbelina’s wanderings. She is tiny but very brave.
2. Waltz – Mirage. The exhausted Thumbelina dances with a Prince. She wakes up. It was only a dream.
3. Tango with a forest piglet, Chris, who saves Thumbelina and encourages her to come to his Cabaret where all kinds of animals live together amicably.
4. Sad Song. In Chris’s cabaret Thumbelina tells the piglet her life story and they have a big party.
5. The meeting with the Prince, who suddenly flies in and immediately falls in love with Thumbelina. Everyone celebrates their marriage.
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PAVLOVA, A.: Symphony No. 6 / Thumbelina Suite (Mo...