Sergey LYAPUNOV (1859-1924)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat minor (1890) [22;16]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in E major (1909) [19:27]
Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes (1907) [16:35]
Shorena Tsintsabadze (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company KULTURA, Moscow, 2-6 March 2008
NAXOS 8.570783 [58:32]

I must admit from the outset that the work of Lyapunov has remained beneath my radar. This is a pity because I was delighted to discover so much to admire on the evidence of this CD. Another recording made in 2002, is available on Hyperion with Hamish Milne (piano) and the BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins reviewed on this site by Rob Barnett. His review includes more detail about the composer than I have stated below.

Born at Yaroslavl in 1859, Lyapunov studied first in Moscow - including a brief period with Tchaikovsky - before he moved on to St Petersburg where he became associated with Balakirev. Lyapunov tended to be overshadowed by this association and the strength of the influence of Balakirev is at once clear from the opening pages of Lyapunov’s First Piano Concerto, which was dedicated to that composer. This First Piano Concerto may seem derivative and not especially inventive, but it is nevertheless very melodious and most pleasing to the ear. The beguilingly lyrical piano writing is matched by an attractive, colourful orchestral accompaniment, noble, heroic and wistfully romantic. Tsintsabadze brings to bear a light and delicate poetic touch with unbridled passion reserved for the Concerto’s climactic passages. This, together with Yablonsky’s staunch accompaniment, proves this music is well worth exploring.

The Second Piano Concerto, again a single-movement work, was written 19 years or so after the First. This too is tuneful, heroic and accessible. It begins quietly and wistfully with delicate piano ornamentation and tranquil orchestral comment. This is a richly romantic work with melodies that yearn softly then passionately, proceeding to passagework that is fiercely defiant.

The pleasing Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes begins with some evocative, pastoral woodwind writing. The piano ripples over string material that sounds derivative of Rachmaninov although the original source could well be folk material used by both composers. The general influence of Liszt is more apparent in this work. Again melody predominates. There is a grateful part for the piano with glistening runs and sparkling arabesques. The patriotic assertions are made more thrilling by full symphony perorations.

On this evidence I will be looking out for more music by Lyapunov: his Symphonies, Violin Concerto and other works

Melodious and colourful music. Derivative? Perhaps, but so what when it is delivered with such verve.

Ian Lace

Melodious and colourful music. Derivative? Perhaps, but so what when it is delivered with such verve.