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Piano Ctos 1 & 2 / Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 14, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Russian Nationalist Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov was strongly influenced by Mily Balakirev, leader of the 'Mighty Handful' of composers, to whom he dedicated his Glinka Prize-winning Piano Concerto No. 1. Lyapunov' Piano Concerto No. 2 deserves a place am
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
1
30
22:15
Album Only
2
30
19:27
Album Only
3
30
16:35
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (December 14, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00480783U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,566 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By E. S. Wilks on December 20, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Lovers of Russian music frequently think of Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Musorgsky, and perhaps Borodin, but less well-known composers, such as Arensky, Balakirev, Lyadov, Anton Rubinstein, the Taneyevs and especially Lyapunov are often overlooked. Lyapunov became a disciple of Balakirev, who encouraged him and tried to get his works published. Together with Balakirev and Lyadov, Lyapunov collected some 300 folksongs from the Vologda, Vyatka and Kostroma districts. He concertized extensively in Germany and Austria and also taught in various positions. He emigrated to Paris in 1923 and taught there for one year before succumbing to a fatal heart attack.
Lyapunov's two piano concertos are written in a Lisztian style, i.e., each is in a single movement; the various sections flow together with no breaks, and the virtuoso style is prominent. Both concertos are full of melodies, and it is shameful that they are so neglected. The Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, dedicated to Busoni, is also in the Lisztian style.
This budget-priced Naxos CD competes with a full-priced CD that contains the same three works. The young pianist Shorena Tsintsabadze, a native of Moscow despite her Georgian-sounding name, plays splendidly, and the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, under Dmitry Yablonsky's expert direction, provides excellent accompaniment. The sound quality is first rate, and Keith Anderson's program notes are very informative. Warmly recommended.
Ted Wilks
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We tend to know little of the music of Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov (1859-1924) although he is clearly in the line of descent of the great Russian composers like Balakirev, Glinka, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Indeed, the studied with both Balakirev and Tchaikovsky and was a particular protégé of Balakirev whose piano concerto he finished after the older composer's death. Lyapunov was a fine pianist and wrote very well for the piano. His gorgeous and monumental Transcendental Etudes have been recorded a number of times. I have reviewed an early recording by Louis Kentner Lyapunov: 12 Études d'Exécution Transcendante, Op. 11 and raved about it; then I encountered the recording, in much more modern sound, by Konstantin Scherbakov and liked it even more Liapunov: Piano Works. As you can tell from the name of his études he was influenced by Liszt; the two concertos on this disc are one-movement works, like Liszt's Second Concerto. And his piano writing is similar to Liszt's as well. But the melodic and harmonic fingerprints are entirely Russian. One could easily imagine his tunes coming from Tchaikovsky, say. The First (1890) is big and dramatic, the Second (1909) is a bit more genial and relaxed. Both are heroic, virtuosic and tightly constructed in a modified arch form. There is plenty of opportunity for display and Russian pianist Shorena Tsintsabadze does herself proud. [An interesting side note: Tsintsabadze studied in New York with the mother, Oxana Yablonskaya, of the CD's conductor, Dmitry Yablonsky.Read more ›
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The romantic era produced a large number of piano concertos. Piano virtuosos were prominent during the era, and they composed or commissioned numerous concertos. There is the first tier that we all know. There is the second tier that gets played now and then. And there is the third tier--the obscure concertos that are recorded for those who just can't get enough of the genre. The hope is always to find some kernels in the great chaff of forgotten concertos.

Lyapunov was a serious composer as well as an accomplished pianist. His two concertos plus the Rhaposdy are not just piano showpieces, they are intended as serious music. The two concertos are similar in structure, with an interplay between piano and orchestra leading to a grand finale. While the second concerto is reputed to be the greater work, I preferred the first. Both have decent melodies, but nothing you will walk away humming. The balance between piano and orchestra is well managed as befits a serious composer, rather than the piano-centric bias found in so many concertos from the era. The Rhaposdy is a bit more lyrical, but also has a big finale. Going against critical opinion, I liked it better than the second concerto, although not as much as the first.

So these works rank near the top of the third tier. But there is another recording available with the same program: Piano Concerto 1 & 2; Rhapsody on Ukranian Themes (The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 30)

This recording has a bit of distance in the recording, but the piano playing is assured and the interplay between piano and orchestra tighter. The Hyperion album has a bit brighter sound, but the performance doesn't quite measure up to this one. So I have to give this album the edge.
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