Well done to Campion and DI Music for picking up these
tapes. These works are by a Muscovite who studied with Khachaturian.
The music travels the well-worn tracks left by Rimsky-Korsakov and the
colouristic Slav nationalists. These are entertainments without toil
and profundity as one would expect from a composer of thirteen operettas
and musicals and two ballets.
Remember all those novella style cinematographic piano
concertos of which the Warsaw Concerto is the best known? Well
Russian Caprice slips very neatly into that company. It
is not a work of any great depth. Its aim is surely to entertain - and
that it does. It is brilliant and echoes with sentimental Gershwin references
and Prokofiev's keyboard glitter. The Enchanted Wanderer is
unerringly Tchaikovskian with its melodic apparatus derived from the
Fifth Symphony. The 'Wanderer' of the title is an illiterate sage (based
on the eponymous novel by Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895)) who drifts through
Russia from town to city to hamlet. The Andersen Fairy Tales return
the listener to the gawky quirky piano solo writing of Prokofiev (Love
of Three Oranges), cheerful 'toy soldier' absurdity, Nutcracker
romance and, in the Thumbelina movement, sable-toned fantasy.
This is a 'piano concerto' trilogy with each panel related to a famous
Andersen fairytale: 1. The Steadfast Tin Soldier; 2. Thumbelina;
3. The Emperor's New Clothes. The Gypsy Rhapsody would
make a seamless pendant to a mixed recital with the Paganini and Wieniawski
concertos, Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, Saint-Saëns' Caprice
Andalou and Waxman's Carmen Fantasy. It is flashy, opulently
romantic and showy. Ivanov and conspirators sell it for all its worth.
If you hanker for a rather commercial equivalent of
a Malcolm Arnold with a Russian nationalist accent, someone who knows
his way around the virtuosic fancies of Rimsky, Balakirev and Prokofiev,
look no further.