by Walter Simmons
KHRENNIKOV Napoleon Bonaparte (Ballet) – Pavel Ovsyannikov, cond; Presidential Orchestra of the Russian Federation – RUSSIAN DISC 10 070 (69:08)
For many years Tikhon Khrennikov was known in the West only as First Secretary of the Composers Union under Joseph Stalin, a position for which he was reviled and despised, characterized as a loathsome coward who was willing to condemn his more talented colleagues in exchange for the favor of the ruthless dictator. It therefore followed that the music he composed would be identifiable as the work of a sycophantic hack. However, my own limited experience with Khrennikov’s work (the Second Piano Concerto in particular) suggested that the conclusions inferred via the (il)logic of political correctness were wrong, and that the man’s music was not all that bad.
Now, in the program notes to this new release, Lev Ginsburg asserts that Khrennikov was “really appointed” to his position and that this “courageous and honest man” was coerced into signing “false documents.