Glinka was a fine pianist and had a few lessons from the
celebrated pianist and composer John Field. He also impressed
Hummel, whose writing for the piano was clearly influential
in the composition of the Grand Sextet. In 1830 Glinka
left Russia to spend nearly three years in Italy where he met
Mendelssohn and Berlioz. In Italy he also met the famous opera
composers Bellini and Donizetti who influenced him greatly.
The considerable travelling around Europe that Glinka undertook
in the early eighteen hundreds helped him develop his markedly
original compositional style blending Western European traditions
with distinctively nationalist Russian melodies and harmonies.
This selection of miscellaneous piano pieces performed
by Ludmila Berlinskaya are predominantly of a light salon nature
and form part of Glinka’s lesser known works. With these attractive
lightweight and transparent scores Glinka demonstrates his experimentation
in various styles and techniques, notwithstanding their intention
to give pleasure to the listener and performer.
Ludmila Berlinskaya graduated from the Gnessin Institute
of Music in Moscow and from the Moscow Conservatory. She has
performed in some of the most prestigious venues and collaborated
with many of the most eminent soloists including accompanying
Sviatoslav Richter in four-handed piano recitals. Berlinskaya
takes her task seriously and plays affectionately with an abundance
of character in these appealing and charming Glinka scores.
I especially enjoyed her delicate performance of the Variations
on a Russian song ‘Among the gentle valleys’ (track
4). Her playing, so vivid in colouring, in the Nouvelles
Contredanses is evocative of ballet dancers executing beautiful
pirouettes (track 6).
Glinka’s Grand Sextet for piano and strings is an
attractive score of considerable melodic invention, with a significant
virtuoso part for the piano. I have seen different composition
dates attributed to the Grand Sextet part of which was
thought to have been written near Lake Maggiore on the Italian
and Swiss border around 1832. This was just prior to Glinka
finding considerable fame with his opera: ‘A Life for the
Tsar’ followed some six years later by ‘Ruslan and Ludmila’.
These two works established a new classic Russian school of
With the solo piano part dominating consistently throughout,
the three movement Sextet feels more like a Concerto for Piano
and Strings rather than a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
When composing the score Glinka would have been aware that a
sextet, with its requirement for smaller resources, was
a far more practical proposition for performance than a piano
For this performance the celebrated players of the Borodin
Quartet are joined by pianist Ludmila Berlinskaya and double-bass
player Grigori Kovalevski. The extended first movement allegro is a conventional sonata structure
with a highly memorable main theme for the piano. The players
are in remarkably fine form in the opening allegro and
play with polish and style in the andante which is a
delightful serenade containing a gypsy-like interlude
for the violin. The finale marked allegro con spirito
is a vivacious movement, again in sonata form, in which the
ensemble demonstrate their spontaneity and vital musical feeling.
I found the booklet notes rather uninteresting and lacking
in information. The Europe-Art engineers have provided a fine
natural sound quality. The attractive scores are lovingly performed
and are worth obtaining.