Sergey Zhukov      



honored art worker of Russian Federation




Review on Piano Concerto Silentium
Violin Concerto Angel’s Day

Piano Concerto Silentium 
Violin Concerto Angel’s Day
Eleonora Bekova (piano)
Karelia State Symphony Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky
Elvira Bekova (violin)
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Konstantin Krimets
Lirita Recorder Edition CC9105

This is a reissue of a disc originally released by Cameo Classics back in 2013. It was twice reviewed on MWI at the time, by Rob Barnett (who tentatively suggests a 2010-11 recording date) and Steve Arloff. Both have written with great insight and real enthusiasm about these concerti. Lyrita recently acquired Cameo Classics and their name looms large on the redesigned leaflet, but otherwise the disc is the same. These two big pieces form two thirds of a triptych of solo concertos for the three Bekova Sisters (who recorded much for Chandos in the 1990s and 2000s including Zhukov’s Triple Concerto Grosso).

It’s difficult to add anything analytical or contextual about these works beyond the eloquent reviews of my colleagues – but I can describe my personal impressions. These pieces are absolutely not what I expected – if the listener listens to the first couple of movements of each piece and assumes they know what’s coming – they would be completely wrong. Frankly I would have expected any composer of works of this quality to have at least a ‘cult’ following, but beyond the website mentioned in the previous reviews, Sergei Zhukov is something of a mystery.

The first movement of the piano concerto (subtitled Silentium for reasons which will become apparent) begins with short, unpredictable piano phrases occasionally with a muted orchestra, which alternate with what I would describe as loud silences. The fact that Zhukov is Ukranian, and this alternation of sound and silence might invoke the name of Valentin Silvestrov to some, Zhukov’s material is more pungent and unpredictable, moving as it does from gentle, ethereal sequences to more dissonant serial-like ones that are almost Webernesque. So the compelling use of silence here evokes another modern master, Luigi Nono – it is almost confrontational – and after hearing these episodes a few times – Zhukov’s maverick impulses seem compelling and even beautiful.

As the concerto proceeds, its extreme diffuseness is likely to turn off some listeners at first listen; there were moments during my first encounter where I thought I was losing interest before Zhukov introduces a sudden melodic or harmonic twist, or some peculiar orchestral timbre (both works are full to bursting with weird colours and velvet textures – I would say Zhukov’s daringness in this regard is most unusual – and he unfailingly knows exactly when to draw the line) which demand one’s attention and retrieves the listener’s focus . These moments occurred predominantly during the second and third movements, yet by the time I’d heard the work the third time I could not believe I’d ever found these episodes hard going - they are actually superbly built and expertly weighted. The fourth movement is quite masterly; the building of tension before the final, unforgettable, shattering coda is extraordinary – whereas the final Post-scriptum (a very Silvestrovian word - here its use could not be more apposite) epilogue incorporating Eleonora Bekova’s unnerving and somehow disembodied recitation of the Mandelstam poem that gives the concerto its title creates its own music, as Steve Arloff stated.

The performance is first-rate – the Karelia Orchestra have recorded other obscure repertoire for Cameo and they are superbly recorded while those familiar with the Bekova Sisters’ impressive Chandos discography will not be surprised by Eleonora’s iridescent and thrilling playing.

If Silentium is a startling find, its violin sibling is in my view even better. The title Angel’s Day is both delightful and apt as the four movements seek to project a kind of ‘Day in the Life’ narrative. The low bass and timpani glissandi and ethereal bell-trees that combine to open the first movement Morning Touch create an infinity that the stratospherically high-lying violin line fills, seemingly the last shooting star in the sky as night becomes day, although the note suggests that this impressive episode actually represents ‘the gentle singing of the angels’. A repeated note on the celesta announces the scherzo, entitled Messenger and triggers some tentative, melodic buzzing from the soloist before Mendelssohn’s familiar fairy music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is wittily paraphrased. It turns out of course that the repeated note represented the chimes of a clock and soon it is mid-day. This is no lazy quotation - the very spirit of Mendelssohn is superbly absorbed, never slavishly copied. This movement is dazzlingly fast and despite the full orchestra being used, winningly light on its feet. The slow movement Vespers starts with murky ambiguous evening shadows. Again Zhukov’s tone-painting is most original and extremely unpredictable. The soloist’s material lies much lower on the violin - supposedly evoking the travails of the mortals on earth – in time the movement adopts some more conventional postures, indeed the ritual of a church service is evoked in the second half of this panel, and some listeners may detect a textural similarity in the string writing with John Tavener’s masterpiece The Protecting Veil. Tavener never used percussion and woodwind like this though - this movement especially gets better with each hearing. But for me the highlight of the entire disc is Night Flight, the finale. Again the allusions are many but they are seamlessly integrated – it’s easy to pick Schoenberg and Prokofiev, but my knowledge of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila extends only to its famous overture and not to the Marche Chernomor which is cited in the notes. However one also detects the gossamer spirit of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, while Zhukov’s fluent, assured orchestration ensures that this Night Flight is quite unforgettable. Elvira Bekova is a spellbinding soloist – one has to ask why we have not heard her in more solo fare. The playing from the Moscow Orchestra more than matches that of their Karelian counterparts in Silentium while the recording is again warm, inviting and detailed.

The biggest question of all was posed by Steve Arloff in his review - given the regular exposure we get these days in the West to new music from the old Soviet states, why has Sergei Zhukov not been invited to the party? The third concerto in Zhukov’s ‘Bekova trilogy’, Gethsemanian Night looks fascinating before one has heard a note – given its eccentric scoring for amplified solo cello, six horns, three percussionists, prepared piano and choir. The Arloff review suggested it was soon to be recorded but there is no reference to this in the redesigned booklet. One hopes now that Lyrita seem to be pushing the Cameo imprint that this may come to light. In the meantime I have found a second-hand copy of the Chandos disc and ordered it - I can’t wait for it to arrive. I do hope this reissue is successful and triggers big interest in Zhukov, this superb coupling suggests he is really worth getting to know. It’s a ‘Reissue of the Month’ at the very least.


Richard Hanlon




Review on Piano Concerto Silentium
Violin Concerto Angel’s Day

Tailor-made concertos for piano and violin appear here in premiere recordings by the soloists who inspired them. There is certainly a synergy here, with the composer, Sergei Zhukov, responding to both the technique and the temperaments of his intended soloists, sisters Eleonora and Elvira Bekova, and the soloists, in turn, giving idiomatic and finely crafted performances. But the music itself is heavy going—populist perhaps, but in a furrow-browed, Slavic way—and demands much of the listener, not least sympathy for its high-minded artistic aims and a superhuman attention span.

Zhukov (b. 1951) is a Ukrainian composer of Russian training. On the evidence of this recording, he is an eclectic musical thinker who is happy to steer his music into episodes of jazz or religious Minimalism, always confident that he can get back out again and return to his personal idiom. That basic style is Modernist, with some Expressionist outbursts at times, but usually quite consonant in its harmonies, the dissonances more diatonic than chromatic. While there is no tonal architecture here, some of the individual passages have a strong tonal identity, especially climaxes, which often fall back on film music clichés.

The piano concerto is entitled “Silentium,” after a poem by Osip Mandelstam. The poem itself is recited by the pianist over some mood music near the end, a very direct gesture but one of questionable musical taste. The concerto is in five parts, each addressing in a different way the relationship between sound and silence. The 20 seconds of silence at the start of the first track isn’t tape leader, it’s part of the work. The music gradually emerges from the silence, and regularly returns to it as a point of repose.

The violin concerto carries the title “Angel’s Day,” and explores themes of celestial transcendence as understood in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. It too is a multifarious and semantically complex work, moving in and out of styles and moods, with everything given a feeling of earnest philosophical significance by the sheer symphonic scale of the proceedings. There are occasional quotations, or at least fleeting references, to earlier works. The liner identifies Prokofiev and Glinka, but I hear Wagner and Strauss too. But these evaporate almost as soon as they appear, leaving yet more questions unanswered for the uninitiated listener.

The solo parts are adventurous and as stylistically diverse as the orchestral writing. They don’t sound particularly virtuosic, although that may be a result of the soloists’ proficiency. Zhukov creates some interesting relationships between soloist and ensemble, for example setting the piano against the percussion, or combining the orchestral strings with the violin soloist as a kind of halo around her ethereal lines. The performances are proficient, with the orchestras as atuned to Zhukov’s aesthetic as the soloists. Audio is reasonable, though a little recessed and not very involving. The piano in particular sounds distant and boxy, especially in the upper range, though it is difficult to tell if this the fault of the engineering or the instrument itself. Some audience noise in the violin concerto reveals this to be a live performance, though no recording information is given.

It’s puerile and childish to lampoon the poorly translated liner texts, but I can’t resist. Violinist Eleonora Bekova is, we are told, “both eye and ear catching with an intriguing provenance.” Her being eye-catching is presumably the reason she gets the front cover to herself, but her intriguing provenance is not explained any further. In fact, the Bekova sisters are from Kazakhstan, but both play very much from within the Russian tradition: Both have a precise, emphatic technique, often delicate of tone, but never casual. The bio for violinist Elvira Bekova opens with an encomium from Aram Khachaturian, suggesting she’s no spring chicken. Khachaturian was impressed, though, with what he described as her “fiery temperament and virtuosity,” so too was David Oistrakh, who is quoted describing her sound as “unique,” though it is not clear if he meant that in a good way.
Zhukov’s concertos are serious business, and for those with a taste for mainstream new music from Russia, there is much here to savor. Both works are long, each approaching 40 minutes, and neither attempts to justify that length through continuous invention. Instead, the sheer breadth of the music, with long, arching phrases built on repeating figures, accounts for the duration. Minimalist means to maximal ends.


                                                                                                                                                       Fanfare Magazine issue, 2015



Review on Nimbus Records

Piano Concerto Silentium (2001)
Violin Concerto Angel’s Day
Eleonora Bekova (piano)
Karelia State Symphony Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky
Elvira Bekova (violin)
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Konstantin Krimets

It must be a fantastic feeling for a musician to have works written with them specifically in mind which is the case here. Ukrainian composer Sergei Zhukov explores the relationship between sound and silence in his Piano Concerto and seems to set it in a void with 20 seconds of silence ‘recorded’ before any sounds emerge. It is often the case that the space between the notes is as important as the notes themselves if the notes are to have the impact the composer intended. That is obviously of paramount importance here which is why Zhukov had pianist Eleonora Bekova in mind when he wrote the concerto. He says of her: she can “simultaneously express sound and silence” while Martha Argerich has written that “She balances emotion, intellect, and style beautifully and her touch can transform the piano into an instrument that sings like a human voice.”

The first of the Piano Concerto’s five movements certainly creates a feeling of floating in space in a blackness surrounded by twinkling stars. The second begins with a dialogue between piano and marimba and things become ‘busier’ as a series of explosions occur to interrupt the relative silence and the orchestra becomes disturbed and anxious. The third section expresses silence as the booklet notes describe it “as an embodiment of a celestial beauty”. This is quite a feat considering that it uses piano and orchestra to do so and calls for the soloist to play exceedingly slowly. Part four opens with a much more aggressive sounding piano. This consists of patterns of repeated notes that are quite affecting and develops the ideas expressed in part two, namely the explosive aspect characterised by abrupt and violent sounds from both soloist and orchestra. It is the most disturbed of all the sections though with plenty of excitement to compensate. The final part called Post Scriptum in the notes returns to the gentle state with which the work began. As she plays, Eleonora Bekova speaks the words of the poem that inspired the work, Osip Mandelstam’s Silentium. She does this in beautifully enunciated Russian which creates its own music as the work fades into the void once more.

Zhukov has written three works for the Bekova sisters and the third one, for cellist Alfia Bekova, Gethsemanian Night, for electric cello, mixed chorus, six horns, trio percussions and prepared piano is due to be recorded soon. The violin concerto written for Elvira Bekova and entitled Angel’s Day is an extraordinarily affecting work of exceptional lyrical beauty. Compositions such as the two here take some concentrated listening before they reveal themselves completely but once achieved they are quite compelling. There is a shared theme between these two concertos since they both involve, as the booklet notes observe, “... the infinite space between heaven and earth”.

Cast in four sections standing for morning, noon, evening and night, the violin concerto opens with Morning Touch the effect of which is gorgeously rich. As the liner note points out, “The solo violin, stratospherically high, represents the gentle singing of the angels.” The second section, Messenger, is deliciously and refreshingly light but quite fast with the violin creating the impression of flight at times. This it does in almost fairy-like flourishes recalling as the notes observe Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream “... until 12 sacramental chimes remind us that it is noon by the celestial angel’s clock.” Vespers, the third section, is the concerto’s slow movement which opens mysteriously although it seems that this section represents the earth with the angel present at a church service “singing of earthly sorrow.” The music brought to mind that of John Tavener, Górecki and Pärt with their religiously inspired beauty. The final section Night Flight is a spirited scherzo which includes a quotation from Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht to underline its nocturnal connections. It “is essentially optimistic, an attempt to reconcile opposites and to bring about the harmonisation of man with the cosmos.” While all this might seem extremely weighty as a theme it is a wonderfully evocative picture of the subject. The end comes with a whisper.

The Bekova sisters are amazing representatives of their Kazakh heritage and have made many recordings as a trio. It is a pleasure to hear these solo excursions. It comes as no surprise that Zhukov should have composed his works with Eleonora and Elvira specifically in mind. They are exceptionally talented as the two concertos here prove beyond doubt. They treat the subject matter with due reverence delivering utterly convincing performances of these two extraordinary works.

It is also refreshing to hear a less well known orchestra in the Piano Concerto with the Karelia State Symphony Orchestra meeting the challenges perfectly. The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in the Violin Concerto are as good as one would expect from such a world class ensemble. This is a rare disc that deserves to be heard. It shows Zhukov as a name to look out for even though he has been musically active for well over thirty years. It makes me wonder why I have not heard of him before.

Steve Arloff



Crazy Ukrainian Composer Meets Tragically Hip Sisters From Kazakhstan. Mad Cap Antics Ensue.


Sergey Zhukov
Concerto Mystery and Concerto Grosso
The Bekova Sisters
Residentie Orchestra The Hague under George Pehlivanian
Chandos CHAN 9588

Ok, I hate to always be the guy who’s on about something he loves and thinks everyone else should love, especially when the word “like” might be more appropriate. But I can’t spend the rest of my life throwing darts at Karajan and complaining about “crossover” and just generally running around buying discs I know will suck only so I can write about how bad they are. So I’m going to recommend something to you. Something new and edgy and so unpopular that it’s already out of print.

So, have you ever heard of the Bekova sisters? They’re sort of Kazakhstan’s version of the Barenboim, DuPre, Perlman troika. A little gimmicky perhaps, but of course gimmicks are the bread and butter of record company marketing departments. And what record company should be ashamed to sell their own products? Chandos certainly isn’t and if the curiosity of the record-buying public is peaked by the story of three competent musicians from a former Soviet republic who sound nice and look good in evening wear, then so be it.

So imagine you’re a hip trio with a phat recording contract and you’re getting a little tired of performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and that your audience is getting a little tired of same and that you wan’t something new that no one has ever heard, something to revitalize your concert program, something to wow the critics, something to put the spring back in your collective step. Well, don’t ask me how they hit on the idea of Sergey Zhukov, but they did. In fact, they hit on him twice. They commissioned him to compose a contemporary response to Beethoven and then to follow in the steps of other contemporary composers (Bloch and Schnittke come readily to mind) with a modern take on the traditional concerto grosso.

Zhukov gives us two worthy additions to the canon of the new consonance, although just how well the term “new consonance” applies is up to the individual listener. I’ll start, by way of example, with the
Concerto Mystery.

The first movement is a beautiful - a very thoughtful comment on Beethoven with his thematic material woven deftly into a late 20th century fabric. It reminds us just how important the past is to the present, and hence, to the future. People like Schonberg who break so angrily with all that came before lead their audience out on to a limb. The limb may offer a unique view, but the position is precarious at best. I suspect that the composer who offers us an evolution instead of a revolution is more likely to find a way forward - a way on which we can all join him. So kudos to Zhukov for the first movement. The following allegro is an equally moving, though much more anxious and less Beethovenian, statement. It’s filled with apprehension and even a little dread, and is resolved in a spectacular and very satisfying way. The third movement, which is an extended triple cadenza, is where it all comes off the tracks with what seems like a lot of aimless wandering, structurally and tonally, and I suppose that is what cadenzas are supposed to do. Just maybe not for thirteen minutes. Over-indulgent? Yeah, a little. But you suffer through thinking that things will get back on track with the finale. And they pretty much do. If you’re patient. And diligent. And willing. This is less immediately accessible than the first and second movements, but there is some coherent structure, some tonality and some emotional payoff. All in all, it’s really the kind of music that I’m glad somebody somewhere is willing to write these days. I have this very over-simplified view of things where I imagine that if the Second Viennese Boys could hear this piece, they might say, “Oh,yeah. I guess that would have been a much better way to go.” Probably not, but I’d like to think so.

Zhukov’s second go with the Bekovas, the Concerto Grosso, is a similar but ultimately different animal. Perhaps it’s the lack of program, or perhaps it’s the confines of the baroque form, but this piece seems, if a little more musical, maybe a little less emotionally engaging. It’s certainly more compact than the Concerto Mystery. Three movements instead of four, and 20 minutes instead of 45. The musical thinking seems to wander less, to be more to-the-point, and that’s because it has to be. No broad, sweeping canvas here, just fairly brief and matter-of-fact development. I especially like the content, form and message of the final movement. Like the Beethoven embellishment of the previous work, here he draws upon a traditional musical statement and turns it into something thoroughly modern and relevant. A little sad and despondent (the Russian in him coming out?), but very worthwhile and very listenable. I wouldn’t care to make any comprehensive statements suggesting that if you want to hear where classical music is going these days then you must listen to Zhukov, but... I certainly wouldn’t mind if this was where it was going.

All in all, I can’t see how Zhukov offers us any less than Pendercki or Rautavaara or Gorecki, and yet he is performed virtually not at all and recorded even less. Nothing of his is currently in print and that is a shame. Nevertheless, if you’d like to try out this cd you can find it in the bins at berkshirerecordoutlet. That’s dot com for the uninitiated. A mere $4.99 and a bargain at twice the price.


Matty J Hifi

Classical Rough And Ready

08 February 2010



Review on Cameo Classics CD

Piano Concerto Silentium,

Violin Concerto Angel's Day

Until now the wider musical world has been familiar with the music of Sergei Zhukov through a Chandos CD (CHAN 9588) which was issued in 1998 as part of their thenNew Directionseries. The disc contains the Concerto Mystery[45:24] and the Concerto Grosso /Concerto Sacra/[20:41]. The Residentie Orchestra, The Hague, then extensively used by Chandos, was conducted by George Pehlivanian. You can still track down copies. It may well be that the present Cameo Classics disc will re-ignite sales of that Chandos disc. The other link between that disc and this is the three Bekova sisters who feature in the Concerto Grosso /Concerto Sacra/. Again they were a repeated presence in Chandos releases of the late 1990s to mid 2000s.

The Bekova or Nakibekova sisters are Eleonora (piano), Elvira (violin) and Alfia (cello). They are well known for their advanced concert programming but greater familiarity attaches to their Chandos CDs of Martinů piano solos and trios not to mention their Franck and Rachmaninov. There’s also a coolly received Claudio disc. Zhukov has written a concerto for each of the sisters. Here we have the ones for violin and piano. The cello one is to follow - I hope.

What of Zhukov and the music? He has a fairly thorough English language website which is well worth a look. He was born in the Ukraine and studied music locally before moving to the Moscow Conservatory and graduating in 1978. There are six ballets and more than handful of concertos along side plenty of chamber and vocal music. There are also three symphonies, dating from 1985, 2009 and 2012. TV and movie music jostles with a musical (Life of insects, or Deceit and Love) staged in Moscow in 2010 and an oratorio Moments running in succession.

Going by this Cameo disc his music can be both lyrical and strangely avant-garde in a 1960s sense. The two aspects are made to mediate in a most natural and fluent way. There’s something of the ritual and the arcane about these two concertos. Ancient Sorceriesis the title of one of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories. That title could equally well have been applied to these two large-scale works except that the pagan, while not absent, makes way for Christian mysteries in the Violin Concerto /Angel's Day/.

Silentium is in five movements which are contemplative and manic-panic by turns. Impressions come and go: Stravinsky’s Firebirdin sinister mode, John Tavener, Scriabin, Bridge’s Phantasm and Oration, Griffes’Pleasure Dome, Ives’Unanswered Questionand Ireland’s Forgotten Riteand Legend- all of this given a dissonant skew among the New Age devotions. The atmosphere created is potent with strands of incense trailed by a slowly swinging thurible contrasted with the insistent machine-gun rhythmic tattoo of the piano (II: 3.44). In III there’s the glint and shimmer of the tam-tam and some mercilessly jazzy piano syncopation in IV. The soloist intones Mandelstam’s poem ‘Silentium’ in the finale while the guitar adds plangency and colour to the orchestra’s dripping opalescent notes. Something rich and strange indeed, although more pedestrian souls might regard it as hocus-pocus.

The oneiric theme is continued with the Violin Concerto /Angel's Day/ which is in four movements. The character of the music is incantatory but not static. We are in strange realms but ones where the ideas often seem to reference Russian nationalism of the late 19thcentury. In Morning Touch(I) the violin speaks as a high, thin wail, trembling and distant.Messenger(II) is full of hyper-tense excitement which is, in character, part Midsummer Nights Dreamand part chattering freshness from Rachmaninov’sThe Bells. InVespersplangent single rain-drop notes splash down gently. The finale -Nightflight- links to the archingly sanguine melody of Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony and the faery mystery of the same composer’s First Violin Concerto - wonderful fluttering violin at 8:07. Along the way we meet, at 5:35-7:07, a playful Nutcrackerf light before the music ascends to the stratosphere amid celesta sparkling and the shimmer of silver chains.

Something out of the ordinary rut. Surreal music that holds the listener.

                                                                                                                                                         Rob Barnett
Classical Editor 

MusicWeb International




Short review on CD

Sergei Zhukov had in his mind not only Eleonora Bekova’s skills as a soloist but also her psychological profile. ‘Eleonora is able to be in deep meditation at the same time as she is performing at the piano. She can simultaneously express sound and silence’. The theme of the concerto is that special relationship between sound and silence. ‘Silentium’ stems from the 1910 poem by the Jewish poet, Osip Mandelstam. The Angel’s Day Concerto was designed to fit the character of violinist Elvira Bekova, using her remarkable capacity to perform exactly according to the composer’s intention. It also reflects the theatrical style of the composer. The concerto, in many ways eccentric, even carnival-like, also has pure moments of lyricism. This reflects Zhukov’s portrait of both the Angel and the performer. ‘Angel’s Day’ is presented in four parts, recalling the classical symphony: morning, noon, evening and night. Sergei Zhukov is an eclectic composer having produced a large catalogue of chamber, choral, orchestral and theatrical works. He has placed particular emphasis on the genre of the concerto. He has composed three concertos for piano, violin and cello, which he dedicated to each of the Khazak Nakipbekova sisters (The Bekova Trio). This series of concertos earned him the award of ‘Composer of the Year’ made by Musical Review in 2002.

Nimbus Records



New Names

A keen sense of historical tradition, the guiding principle of Sergei Zhukov's formative years, has shaped the range of his predilections and choices, 'and helped him master the diverse tech¬niques of composition during his studies at the Moscow Conservatoire from which he graduated in 1978. Later he completed a postgraduate course there under Professor Mikhail Chulaki. Since his days at the Conservatoire, Sergei Zhukov has combined a quest for new images and expressive means with an urge to comprehend and ex¬press his ties with the past.
Folklore is one a major themes of his music. Avoiding direct quotations from his native Ukrainian folk songs, the com¬poser strives to ensure an authentic impression and stylistic accuracy by rendering the flavour of speech inflec¬tions and intonations. First he concen¬trates upon the lyrics, looking for their musical equivalents in folk tunes, then proceeds to the final stage, the recrea¬tion of the initial fusion of sounds, words and movements. His cantata Spivanochki, based on the earliest examples of Ukrainian folklore, is notable for its original approach to the space-music relationship, with the first soprano and grand piano placed on the stage, and the second soprano, violin, clarinet and temple block in the auditorium. The space between them reverberates with the music, its tempo, pauses and rests. The cantata's form is open. It comes to an end at the performer's will, and its clearly impro¬visatory character produces an impres¬sion of spontaneous music-making.
One of the main sources to which Sergei Zhukov turns for inspiration is poetry. Although his interests cover a wide range, he feels a particular affinity with poets, who were primari¬ly concerned with form. Sergei Zhukov's early works, for example, the vocal instrumental cycle to verses by Miezelaitis, were expressive of his predominantly "phonetic" approach to poetry, and the treatment of words as channels for additional musical nuances. The subsequent com¬positions, Dramatic Triptych and Eight Musical Novellasbased on poetry of A. Tarkovsky, among others, reveal his growing preoccupation with meaning.

Monologues to verses by Marina Tsve¬tayeva and the cycle Echo based on Alexander Pushkin may be regarded as landmarks in the composer's work in vocal instrumental form. The Tsvetayeva cycle brings out the rhythmical and syntactical features of the poems. In the climax the compo¬ser gives up melodic development altogether; the voice holds onto a single note accentuating the caesuras while a sparing musical accompaniment emphasizes the tragic meaning of the words. In the cycle to verses by Alexander Pushkin the composer stresses the details which serve to build up the visual image. Instrumental numbers provide a kind of commentary ensuring a coherent development.

The Violin Concerto was Sergei Zhukov's first attempt at writing music for orchestra. Then followed Sonata-Capriccio for solo cello and Partita for solo violin. In the Partita the com¬poser employed a variety of musical forms, such as cantus, chant and recitative, to provide vivid characterizations, creating as a result a intonational instrumental theatre/ The Sonata-Capriccio is noted I spontaneous collage which in the form of a performer’s improvisation on themes from an improvisation overheard am down by the composer. In the Symphony, his most significant attainment so far, Sergei Zhukov has further¬ developed the ideas explored earlier in his chamber instrumental opuses. For example, a gradual transformation of initial intonations into dramatic timbres can' be traced back to his Violin Partita. A strong dramatic quality inherent in the Symphony also manifests itself in the pure timbres progressing towards the superposition of several musical layers and the emergence in the coda of a new colour when players on stringed instruments are to hum their parts. The work has a clearcut structure. A continuous development is based on a thematic complex which appears at the beginning chorales, recitatives and other forms used as its elements.

The central section second movement, which forms what one might call the architectonic axis of the cycle, is written in the classical tradition. Yet this islet of classical tonality, form, harmony and intonation does not appear as a collage. The material of this episode harmoniously emerges ou of the preceding development in the course of which alien element has been thoroughly assimilated and integrated. Sergei Zhukov has embarked upon his individual path, let us listen to voice.


                                                                                                                                                                                   “Music in the USSR”,

January-March, 1987




Foundation De Link

Ñhamber music of Edison Denisov and Serge Zhukov.

E. Denisov: 'Signs in white', performed by Paul Hermsen - piano; Sonata for flute and guitar, performed by Ellen Opten - flute and Frenk Casteleyn - guitar; Solo for vibraphone, performed by Cobi Bol. S.

Zhukov:  Sonata Cappricio, performed by Maike Rademakers - cello; Monologues, performed by Mirjam Touber - soprano and Frans van der Tak - piano; Partita, performed by Robert Szreder - violin.

Tilburg, Thursday 28 April.

Of the approximately 2000 composers that live in the Soviet Union, one was invited by Foundation De Link on Thursday night: Serge Zhukov. His music, as well as music of one of his elder colleagues, Edison Denisov, was subject to performance.

Denisov is a composer of the third generation. He is well-known, not only in the Soviet Union. His style is complex. The works that were performed during this evening, made use of serial techniques. His musical language is international, which may explain why his three compositions, in spite of strong performances, didn't really surprise. It all sounded more or less familiar - an impression that got emphasised because of the relative similarity of the three chosen compositions.

A much stronger impression was caused by the three compositions of the younger Zhukov, who belongs to the second generation of Soviet composers. Zhukov has mastered his profession at least as good as his teacher. He knows how to create a strong and logical connection between tradition (also the East-european musical tradition) and the contemporary musical expression tools.

The clearest evidence of this was found in his Sonata Cappricio for cello solo. But also the three Monologues for soprano and piano, as well as the Partita for violin solo, confirmed the first impression and achieved a clear fascination during this evening.
Also because of the excellent performances.


Friday, April 29, 1988 - HET NIEUWSBLAD





Well, it was quite a Sunday afternoon, in the Maastricht Music School. More than two hours of contemporary music, interrupted by only 15 minutes of intermission, seems a little bit too much for even the most hardened fan of this genre. Even when it's all about the products of two leading Soviet composers, I still maintain this opinion. The program was tributed to compositions of Edison Denisov and Serge Zhukov. Both work in Moscow, they know each other well, but they have nothing in common when it comes to composition style.

Denisov seems to follow the footprints of Schönberg and Webern more than Zhukov, but apart from that, he seems to be fully converted to 'constructivism'. Some influences of older styles may be apparent in his works, but it's the structure of the composition that needs to do the job. For me, his music is somewhat pale, yet inventive, but nearly independent of the so-called 'performance'. His 'Signs in white' were nevertheless interesting. The same can more or less be said about a Suite and a solo piece, although the perfomances didn't succeed to keep my attention all the way to the end.

A completely different matter were the musical products of Zhukov. His main characteristic is the large freedom that he apparently offers to his performers. Zhukov - he's from a different generation than Denisov - creates vivid music, that - in absolute liberty - seems to be bound to the underlying structure. After listening to a composer such as Denisov, it looks as if the young Zhukov is blowing a fresh wind through the Soviet music of the recent years, a sort of Perestroyka. Nevertheless, his music is based upon traditional forms, such as the sonata and the partita, albeit in a sort of 'portrayed' way.

The performances of the Zhukov works were melodic, while we were experiencing catching and compelling music, in many ways. So, there was much to enjoy, even while the Monologues were a bit long.

The explanation on the program was insufficient, perhaps because Zhukov had promised to visit the concert personally.
But he was conspicuous by his absence.







(to his 50th birthday)


In October Moscow hosted a string of music events timed to the 50th birthday of the well-known Russian composer Sergey Zhukov. One of the concerts took place at the House Of Composers, another - at the "Glas" Theatre Zhukov has been cooperating with for several years. A disciple of Mikhail Chulaki, a professor at the Moscow Conservatory and author of several wonderful ballets, he inherited his teacher's love of the theatre. Now Zhukov himself teaches music at the Conservatory and writes music to drama productions at the "Glas" center. He wrote four ballets and lots of symphony and chamber works in the so-called "instrumental theatre" manner - musicians move around the stage, while playing, the performance being accompanied by a recital of texts and quasi-improvised singing. These "innovations" don't interfere with his serious music. As the composer himself admits, before setting down to work, he needs to dismiss all other thoughts, turn into a "clean sheet" and listen to himself and the sounds that arise from the depth of his soul.


O. Bugrova

Russian culture navigator, 2001