Mikael Tariverdiev: Olga Sergeevn Original Television Score

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The West continues to catch up to the artistry of Mikael Tariverdiev through Olga Sergeevn.

Like the rest of my unworldly brethren, I only became acquainted with the works of the Soviet composer Mikael Tariverdiev when Stephen Coates of Real Tuesday Weld brought them to our attention. Tariverdiev's film music was a delicate mix of classical and jazz but didn't feel like it was heavily entrenched in either camp. The double album Olga Sergeevna turns our attention to just one of the TV film series that he scored. Like the Film Music collection, we are treated to a surplus of material; 28 tracks that span an hour and 22 minutes.

Mikael Tariverdiev

Olga Sergeevn Original Television Score

Earth Recordings

Release Date: 20 Oct 2017

The story of Olga Sergeevna was told in eight television episodes. The premise may sound quaint to us today, but it was quite the eye-opener in the '70s-era Soviet Union. The title character, played by the actress Tatiana Doronina, is a marine biologist who decides to devote her life to her work, forsaking any happiness in her personal life. According to the press release that comes with the soundtrack album, the idea of a woman scientist being a central character in a television drama had yet to touch popular culture in America. Not only had the Soviets shot into orbit first, but they beat us to the punch in addressing women in high-profile workplaces within the entertainment industry. It's not quite Sputnik, but it gave a certain composer a job.

According to Olga Sergeevna's director Aleksandr Proshkin, Mikael Tariverdiev wasn't entirely comfortable working along the schedules of others. While the rest of the filming crew were coming up against deadlines, deadlines, and more deadlines, the man in charge of the music preferred to wait for the ideas to come to him. Rarely do these two approaches co-exist peacefully. But if the music of Olga Sergeevna was ever supposed to capture a stressed out Tariverdiev trying to appease the rest of the team, it does not show. The melodies are easy going and certainly don't sound tossed-off. The string arrangements don't sound lazy, hasty, or rushed. Even the improvised passages have a relaxed feel that reflect no struggle. Whatever working relationship Proshkin and Tariverdiev had during the making of Olga Sergeevna, it worked just fine as far as these 28 cues are concerned.

When scoring for a full orchestra, Tariverdiev would work with either the Orchestra of Cinematography or the Ensemble of the Bolshoi Theater, conducted by Emin Khachaturian and Yurii Reentovich respectively. When improvising with a small combo, Tariverdiev would play the piano, harpsichord, celesta, and cimbalon alongside bassist Z. Shakhaliev and drummer S. Livshin (only first initials are given for the rhythm section!). Even when trying to approach a jam session with no preparation, Tariverdiev couldn't help but return to a handful of themes that run through Olga Sergeevna's score.

You get a sample taste of everything in the collection's first five tracks. "Faster Than Sound" and "Sun in Rain" ride a set of tracks laid by pizzicato strings. The bowed strings giving off a melody that is almost too simple to be taken seriously, but anything else would feel too busy. "Movement in Tempo Presto" catches Tariverdiev in one of these jam sessions with both the celesta and the harpsichord. "Memory (Instrumental)" is a chance for the composer to showcase his improvisational skills on the piano with little-to-no accompaniment. Here, he just lets it all spill out for more than five minutes, resulting in the collection's longest track.

There is some singing on Olga Sergeevna, provided by Josef Kobzon and Tariverdiev himself, but they amount to only three out of the 28 tracks here. They are subtle performances, so they don't detract from the music at all. But considering the sounds and musical figures you get to hear on the 25 instrumental tracks, they hardly feel necessary. To the people who came of age in the Soviet Union, Mikael Tariverdiev's music has long spoken for itself. Lucky us, we still get to wake up to that powerful notion every time his works are up for re-release.


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