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Mikhail Ivanovich GLINKA (1804-1857)
Intégrale des oeuvres pour piano [34:14]
1. Separation; 2. Maidens choir from the opera ‘Ruslan and Ludmila’; 3. Mazurka; 4. Variations on a Russian song ‘Among the gentle valleys’; 5. Nocturne (from V. Engelgardt’s collection); 6. Nouvelles Contredanses; 7. Barcarole; 8. Polka; 9. Mazurka; 10. Waltz; 11. A three-voice fugue; 12. Souvenir d’une Mazurka; 13. Farewell waltz
Ludmila Berlinskaya, piano
Sextet in E flat major for two violins, viola, cello, bass and piano Grand Sextet (1832) [25:51]
Borodin String Quartet; Ludmila Berlinskaya, piano; Grigori Kovalevski, double-bass
rec. Tchaikovsky Conservatoire, Moscow, Russia, 27-30 December, 2003 DDD
EUROPE ART EA RECORDS EA 0404/1 [60:05]

 


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 composition.

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 concerto.

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.

Michael Cookson

 

 



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