The first volume of
this series impressed me greatly (review
) and Volume 2 is just as good.
The inclusion of the
Theme and Variations, Op. 72
in this second volume gives the present
disc a certain gravitas. The fertility
of Glazunov's inspiration that I referred
to regarding Volume 1 here blossoms
to the full. This is one of his largest-scale
works for the solo piano. Coombs' own
booklet notes link it with the Sonatas,
and rightly so. Over the course of its
nearly-18 minutes it explores an enyclopaedia
of pianistic textures and flourishes,
each one of which Coombs seems to eat
up voraciously. Not only that, he melds
the variations - on a Finnish folk-song
- into a seemingly inevitable whole.
The compositional technique throughout
is simply masterly and it is impossible
to imagine a more stalwart advocate.
To top it all, the recording is first-rate.
The Steinway is marvellously caught
by Paul Spicer and Ken Blair.
The disc begins with
the Three Etudes, Op. 31. The first
was recorded by Barere. There is a live
and a studio recording from this fearsomely
talented lion of the keyboard. Coombs
treats the first like a Russian Chopin
Etude, pedalling quite heavily although
there are some glittering scales to
compensate. Barere is available on APR6002:
the complete 1934-36 HMV recordings
on a superb twofer. Barere was recorded
exactly sixty years earlier; he takes
an astonishing 2:35 against Coombs'
3:10. Yet Barere rarely sounds rushed
and has even more fantasy, his strength
of character effectively outclassing
Coombs by some margin.
Of the three Etudes,
the most appealing is perhaps the second,
quite fanciful in nature. The recording
struck me as too bath-tubby here though.
The final effort leaves more space for
Glazunov's sense of fantasy.
The Two Pieces
of Op. 22 are a Barcarolle and a Novelette,
the former extremely delicate and whimsical,
the latter dreamy and off-the-cuff.
In steadfastly refusing to over-sentimentalise,
Coombs affirms the stature of these
pieces as salon music of the first order
– because of their supreme craftsmanship.
The Op. 49 Morceaux (Prelude,
Caprice-Impromptu and Gavotte) is a
lovely set, the Gavotte pure delight.
It complements the simply gorgeous Nocturne;
again, this could so easily become mush,
but does not.
Three miniatures are
grouped together, an off-the-cuff Miniature
in C, an Easy Sonata that certainly
lives up to its name and a more introspective
Sonatina. Curiously, the Sonatina is
longer than the Sonata, although there
is little in it – 1:45 against 1:33.
The Two Prelude-Improvisations
are magnificent creations, and certainly
no miniatures. Not emotionally at any
rate – the fairly brief first is marked
'Lento patetico'. It is superbly inventive
in its use of the upper register and
complements the very, very mesto and
really quite progressive Andante that
Superb, in a word.
The two volumes of Glazunov Piano Music
should be mandatory purchases for all
pianists and all lovers of the Russian