I notice from my notes of the time that I reviewed this disc as part of a batch of discs focusing on Russian Wartime Music from the label Northern Flowers. Perhaps it was a case of being over-immersed in a certain kind of idiom with a lot of stylistic cross referencing that made me as underwhelmed as I was.
Listening to the music today in isolation - away from any other Soviet works - I find my response to be essentially the same but less extreme. I think you are certainly right in that the 3rd movement is by some way the most powerful and impressive section - curiously I hear here another reference to Shostakovich's "Leningrad" (the end of the Finale) which escaped me last time. The gloom-laden opening is effective too but I stand by my observation that the music feels more illustrative than truly symphonic - cyclic form or not. The "Folkfest" 2nd movement and the closing hymn must have had the Polit-Bureau Apparatchiks rubbing their hands with delight.
Your description of Symphony 1 is spot-on - a challenging and fascinating work, which as I mentioned in the review makes the journey to the Party-line Symphony 2 all the more tragic. In isolation I was probably too harsh on this work but in context it is what it is - a Soviet Propagandist Symphony albeit it one of the better ones. I think my assessment of the film score and closing march are spot-on and I wouldn't change a word. The closing Red Cavalry Campaign – Symphonic Poster for a large orchestra is about as ghastly as a piece can be. I'm sure states from 19th Century Prussia to 21st Century North Korea would recognise the genre and adore it.
Reading the review again, I actually think its not a bad one (though I say it myself!). Fair in giving the context of a relatively unknown composer - saying what I liked but, as a critic must do, elaborating on why I don't like other things. The orchestral playing is rough - the strings sound about 2 rehearsals away from confidence and the interpretation and recording strike me as unsophisticated.
Importantly - I directed readers to other websites which extol Popov as a composer as well as this specific disc. In so doing I think I very fairly underlined my own mixed feelings about the composer and his music. As a document of the dilemma of the creative artist under regimes such as the Soviet one I think this is both moving and important. But that doesn't make it great Art in itself.
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