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ARC Ensemble Releases World Premiere Of CHAMBER WORKS BY DMITRI KLEBANOV


“Music in Exile” continues the ARC Ensemble’s mission to explore how war, tyranny and bigotry changed the course of musical history.

A casualty of Soviet-era cultural suppression and anti-Semitism, Jewish-Ukrainian composer Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1986) is among the scores of musicians whose works are largely forgotten and rarely performed. Fortunate not to have been among those artists and intellectuals arrested, killed or sent to forced labor camps during Stalin's brutal reign, Klebanov understood that his career and survival depended on producing works that glorified Soviet accomplishments. But he also managed to produce compositions that reveal a boundless imagination, a spirited vivacity and a melodic confidence, all of which justify his inclusion in the classical canon.

The ARC Ensemble's Chamber Works by Dmitri Klebanov begins the long-overdue process of gaining recognition for a composer undeservedly relegated to obscurity. The recording, released today, September 24, is the fifth in the group's critically acclaimed "Music in Exile" series for Chandos. The ARC Ensemble world premiere recording represents the first commercial release of these exhilarating Klebanov pieces.

Nominated for three Grammys and Germany's prestigious OPUS Klassik awards, the highly respected Canadian chamber group--drawn from senior faculty and guest artists from The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School--specializes in recovering and recording music suppressed and marginalized under the 20th century's repressive political regimes. Thanks to The ARC Ensemble's commitment to composers whose lives and careers were devastated by war, displacement, prejudice and racism, a growing number of hitherto unknown masterworks are now rejoining the classical repertoire. Recordings in the "Music in Exile" series have been named to multiple top classical albums-of-the-year lists, including those of the Boston Globe and New York's WQXR-FM.

"When we're choosing a composer to record, we're hoping to find those pulse-quickening moments that engage, affect and sometimes overwhelm the listener," says The ARC Ensemble Artistic Director Simon Wynberg. "In Klebanov's work we found that excitement, emotional appeal and an inspiring honesty." Klebanov's legacy includes nine symphonies, two concertos each for violin and cello, chamber pieces for violin and piano, several operas and ballets, some one hundred songs, and nearly two dozen film scores.

The recording is dedicated to the memory of Klebanov's son Yuri, who provided scans of manuscript scores and filled in the blanks regarding his father's family and career. "Yuri played an important role in the preparation of this recording," says Wynberg, "He even emailed me scans of New Year and birthday greetings that Dmitri Shostakovich had sent to his father, and he recalled the two composers meeting at an Armenian retreat, where the guests included Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya, Benjamin Britten, and Peter Pears. It came as a huge shock when Yuri died of COVID in Moscow on March 28, 2021."

A conductor, pianist, violinist, and educator as well as a composer, Dmitri Klebanov displayed his musical gifts and passion at an early age. At 16, he was the youngest student in his class at the Ukraine's Kharkiv Institute of Music and Drama. By his graduation in 1926, Klebanov had composed two string quartets, a piano trio, several short instrumental pieces, and several songs, works likely lost or destroyed during WW II. He spent the following year as a violist with the Leningrad Opera Orchestra, working with a roster of extraordinary conductors that included Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter and Erich Kleiber. He returned to Kharkiv and his career was on the ascent in the '30s despite Moscow's harsh crackdown on Ukrainian intellectual life. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Klebanov was among the more than 150,000 Jewish refugees evacuated to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

On returning to a war-ravaged Ukraine, Klebanov wrote his First Symphony, dedicating it "To the memory of the martyrs of Babi Yar," the massacre in which 34,000 Jews were slaughtered under Nazi direction. Premiered in 1947, the piece enjoyed an enthusiastic reception. Its acceptance was short-lived. Denounced as unpatriotic for commemorating Jewish rather than Soviet casualties, by 1949 further performances were forbidden. The Symphony was not heard again until 1990, some three years after Klebanov's death, its impact overshadowed by Shostakovich's symphony on the same theme composed 15 years later.

With his symphony banned and Klebanov stripped of his posts at Ukraine's premier musical institutions, Klebanov spent many years in de facto exile, composing forgettable, politically correct odes to Soviet socialist realism while his more independent-minded works received only occasional recognition. The cultural thaw during the Khrushchev era finally re-opened more professional doors and the composer was finally offered the directorship of the Ukraine Composers' Union. The catch: join the Communist Party, a definite dealbreaker for Klebanov.

For this recording, the ARC Ensemble revives Klebanov's vivacious String Quartet No. 4, the stunning Piano Trio No. 2, and boldly dramatic String Quartet No. 5, three pieces that offer a tantalizing taste of a composer worthy of serious attention.

The charming and accessible Fourth String Quartet, completed in 1946, is a lively homage to much-loved composer and Ukrainian separatist Mykola Leontovych, who was killed by the state's secret police. The piece draws on a popular Leontovych melody well-known in the West as the Christmas favorite, "Carol of the Bells."

The Fifth String Quartet, written in 1959, reflects a loosening of musical oversight -offending composers were now simply ignored and marginalized, rather than punished and

persecuted-and Klebanov was freer to experiment with dissonance and bitonality. The opening motif sets the atmosphere for the rest of the piece's spiky expressiveness.

"Big-boned, unashamedly romantic, containing captivating themes, its probing, innocent melodies, constantly interrupted and challenged," is how Wynberg describes the Piano Trio. The piece stands in stark contrast to a bombastic quintet written just four years earlier, in which Klebanov stifled his creative instincts to appease Soviet ideology.

"It's a paradox that in many ways we know less about 20th century than we do about the 19th and 18th," Wynberg says. "For me there is a moral obligation associated with the exploration of music suppressed for no reason other than a composer's race or political beliefs."

The "Chamber Works of Dmitri Klebanov" recording features Erika Raum and Marie Bérard (violins), Steven Dann (viola), Thomas Wiebe (cello) and Kevin Ahfat (piano).

The ARC Ensemble has performed to rapturous reviews on the great stages of the world, including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and London's Wigmore Hall. EXIT: MUSIC, a documentary describing the ensemble's work, premiered in November 2016 (distributed by EuroArts Berlin.) The film, which has been screened at a number of international festivals, tells the extraordinary stories of five composers and how the Third Reich affected their lives and careers.

The ARC Ensemble's Klebanov recording is generously sponsored by George and Rayla Myhal & the Shevchenko Foundation.

You can purchase the album HERE!

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