Russian Piano Encores
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
June: Barcorolle (The Seasons) (1875-6) [5:25]
Dumka Op. 59 (1886) [8:54]
Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor (1910) [7:41]
Anatoly LIADOV (1855-1914)
A Musical Snuff-Box (1893) [2:13]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Scherzo in A flat major (1885) [2:46]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Lyric Waltz (Dance of the Dolls) (1952-62) [1:39]
Short Piece (The Gadfly) (1955) [2:01]
Spanish Dance (The Gadfly) (1955) [2:16]
Nocturne (The Limpid Stream) (1935) [2:14]
Polka (The Age of Gold) (1935) [1:49]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Two Pieces for Piano from Romeo and Juliet (1935-6): Romeo and Juliet before parting [6:57] Masks [2:12]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 3 No. 2 (1892) [4:28]
Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 (1916-17): No. 1 in C minor [2:49]; No. 2 in A minor [7:16]; No. 5 in E flat minor [5:12]
Lilacs Op. 21 No. 5 (1902) [2:18]
Daisies Op. 38 No. 3 (1916) [2:20]
Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 (1912) (arr. Kocsis) [5:59]
Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
rec. various locations in London, Surrey and Suffolk, England, and Berlin, 1963-2004)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3607 [78:09] 

The listing above will inevitably determine a purchase. What is consistent throughout is Ashkenazy’s supreme artistry, the breath-taking brilliance of his virtuosity and the poetry of his interpretations. These little gems - many familiar, a few not so well-known - demonstrate his exceptional talent.
The recordings span Ashkenazy’s visits to the recording studios over forty years from November 1963 (the three Rachmaninov Études-Tableaux to March 2004 (the Kocsis transcription of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise).
Ashkenazy instils a freshness into his readings of some favourites: sunny brilliance into The Spanish Dance from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly; pellucid beauty into the Nocturne from the same composer’s The Limpid Stream and Lyric Waltz (Dance of the Dolls). You can imagine the dolls all dancing up on points. Then there is the intensity of his viewpoint of that Rachmaninov Prelude in C sharp minor and the extraordinarily vivid imagery of Rachmaninov’s lovely Études-Tableau No. 2 in A minor (The Sea and Seagulls. Relaxed nostalgic romance is to the fore in as well as affectionate recollection in Tchaikovsky’s June Barcarolle. The brilliant wit of Liadov’s A Musical Snuff-box has childish fun disguising technical demands. Demanding, too, is Borodin’s glittering Scherzo.
Less familiar might be the tender beauty of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet parting; this is almost a miniature tone-poem in its dramatic scope. Taneyev’s Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor is an unusually formal encore - virtuosic and emotionally involving.
Ashkenazy brings passion, wit and technical agility to these brief, but in no ways slight, little gems. I would buy this disc for Ashkenazy’s Rachmaninov readings alone -especially that Étude-Tableau No.2 in A minor.
Ian Lace
Supreme artistry, breath-taking brilliance and poetry. An exceptional talent.