Review By David Wolman , Fanfare,November 2010
It has been noted that Alla Pavlova’s music is “cinematic,” which is a euphemism for anachronistic. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of dedication and skill to write background music for Hollywood method actors. I, for one, think John Williams, for example, is a great composer—and don’t forget that Bernard Hermann and Erich Wolfgang Korngold were film composers, though both had aspirations to be (and in Korngold’s case had an entire other career as) serious, symphonic composers. And need I mention Leonard Bernstein, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, and Elmer Bernstein? But why do we assume that anything written in the old style must by definition be film music? Yes, distinctions between the varieties of
Pavlova obviously has the chops to write symphonic works—she’s written six symphonies. And apparently she writes with pencil and paper. That’s sort of like writing novels with yellow legal pads and Bics. It’s mostly good music with all the appropriate gestures of “important” music. This CD houses her Symphony No. 6 and Thumbelina Suite. Gee, I haven’t thought about Thumbelina (“tiny but brave”) in a long time, and so relevant to current times. The last movement is quite sweet. If Pavlova is channeling Tchaikovsky, so what? There’s room for all comers, otherwise there wouldn’t be a book-length Fanfare every other month filled with new CD releases. And I’d like to spare Pavlova the snobbery of those who think if you’re not writing left-handed 12-tone concertos for garbage truck and pneumatic drill with a time signature involving square roots, you’re just plain old hat. If Pavlova’s symphony is the musical equivalent of a romance novel, so what? Look, you’d want to be a romantic, too, if you’d previously composed for the Union of Bulgarian Composers and the Russian Musical Society Board in Moscow.
I do get the impression that Pavlova hasn’t absorbed much new music, even though she’s lived in New York since 1990. Either she’s sequestered herself from both the uptown and downtown styles, or she’s adamantly against expressing an original voice, which is a philosophical stance you could adhere to, like someone who spends her life going to Renaissance fairs in costume. I find it hard to condemn her for this or anything else, for that matter. I find her music relaxing and nostalgic, a bit like running across an old Hoover vacuum cleaner at a flea market andmore....