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U.s.-soviet Recording Makes Musical History

August 21, 1986|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — "It's a dream come true," declared Lawrence Leighton Smith, who this month made a small piece of cultural history by becoming the first American to conduct a Soviet orchestra in a recording of Russian classical music.

Smith, music director of both the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky, shared conducting duties with Dmitri G. Kitaenko at the unique musical event here.

Kitaenko, the leader of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted some modern American music for the first time in the Soviet Union, including such pieces as Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring."

Smith, in turn, wielded the baton for music by such Russian composers as Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.

The recording sessions, done over several days earlier this month, were arranged by Sheffield Lab, a recording company in Santa Barbara that is known for technological innovation.

Recordings, made with special equipment and sound technicians from the United States, were produced in the studios of Soviet state television and radio.

"Everything's going smoothly," Kitaenko said. "The American music is very interesting for the conductor and for the orchestra. . . . I hope it's just the beginning of this cultural exchange."

The two conductors also performed at a concert Tuesday for a Soviet-American audience, an event at which the pleasure that the Soviet musicians took in some of the American selections was evident.

During Walter Piston's "The Incredible Flutist," for example, a circus march is simulated by the orchestra. The usually serious string and horn players broke into wide grins and the audience laughed aloud when Kitaenko held a hand to his ear for the denouement: the bark of a small dog.

In Charles Ives' brief piece, titled "The Unanswered Question," both conductors were active. While Kitaenko controlled most of the musicians, Smith directed four flute players who were providing an eerie counterpoint.

Although written in 1905, the Ives piece was the most modern music recorded by the orchestra.

It also performed a work by George Gershwin, titled "Lullaby for Strings," that was not discovered until years after the composer's death. When Gershwin wrote it for a school project in his late teens, it was designed for a string quartet. Since then, however, it has been re-scored.

A spokesman for Sheffield Lab said three records would be made from the recording sessions in Moscow and would be ready for sale before Christmas. Compact discs, analog long-playing records and audiocassettes will be produced.

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