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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Seasons, Op. 37 bis
Dumka, Op. 59
Sentimental Waltz, Op. 51 No. 6.
Irakly Avaliani (piano)
Recorded c.1992 [DDD]
PAVANE ADW7272 [55'37]
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The Georgian pianist Irakly Avaliani studied at the Tchaikovsky National Conservatory in Moscow. Like many Russians, his playing is distinguished by its accurate finger-work and its sparing use of the sustaining pedal. Unfortunately, he can all too often seem too detached to convey the meaning of this music.

Any recording which brings attention to Tchaikovsky's tender and often melancholy 'Seasons' (1875/6) is welcome. Perhaps the title is a trifle misleading: it is, in fact, a sequence of twelve movements, one for each month of the year, each preceded by a poetic quotation (helpfully reproduced in the accompanying booklet). Neither is this the barn-storming Tchaikovsky of the First Piano Concerto: instead, it requires a pianist capable of the greatest introspection (I am not the first commentator to point out the influence of Schumann on this work).

Avaliani has the sense not to over-sentimentalise, and this non-interventionist approach works well: Both the openings of 'March' and 'July' exemplify this well (QUOTES 1 and 2), whilst 'August' demonstrates Avaliani's rapid, light touch (QUOTE 3). However, he fails to consistently delve below the surface of this music: better to try Pletnev on Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century 456 931-2 or Ashkenazy on Decca (466 562-2).

The 'Dumka', Op. 59 is a free rhapsody. Avaliani, however, loosens the structure so much that it emerges as diffuse rather than improvisatory. The faster, Lisztian passages are drily accurate but little else and the ending sounds perfunctory, leaving an uncomfortable, unfinished impression.

The 'Sentimental Waltz', Op. 51 No. 6 (presumably an 'encore/filler'), a kind of Russian version of Chopin's efforts in this genre, is again over-literal. The low playing time further precludes this disc from a whole-hearted recommendation.

Colin Clarke

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