This week the Consonant Classical Challenge features Russian composer Alexey Lvovich Rybnikov. Rybnikov, like Dmitri Tiomkin and Erich Korngold, is classically trained and built a successful career as a film composer. And like Korngold, Rybnikov continues to compose music for the concert hall and the stage.
Rybnikov's style is immediately accessible. He's a master of lyrical melodies that sound evocative and distinctly Russian. While his harmonic structures are fairly straight-forward, his music is tonal without being locked into a particular tonality.
Rybnikov is also know for works he calls "rock-operas," although to Western audiences that term may be a little misleading. Rather than The Who's "Tommy," Rybnikov's works are closer to sung-through Broadway shows, such as "Les Miserables."
This preview video for his work "War and Peace" gives the viewer a taste of what these "rock-operas" are like.
There is a significant difference between Rybnikov's rock-opera style and his work for the concert hall. Though both display well-crafted melodies, Rybnikov's concert pieces rely more on the traditional language of classical tradition. His Capriccio for violin and orchestra illustrates this point.
As with virtually all classically-trained film composers, Rybnikov is a master orchestrator. The toccata from his sixth symphony shows his mastery of the orchestra, as well as his command of counterpoint.
Rybnikov has scored the soundtracks to over 80 Russian films. This excerpt from "Flowers and Thunder" shows his skill in this field.
From the 1930's on, Russian (and/or Soviet) composers have created works that seemingly follow the conservative forms of classical music that still sound innovative and exotic. Alexey Rybnikov is certainly one of the those composers.
It seems to me that any orchestra could program his works with confidence. This is contemporary music that would have the blue-hairs applauding appreciatively rather than running for the exits. And for the rest of us, it's music of quality that is worthy of our attention. At least I think so.