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The Belyayev Project
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Trio in C minor for piano, violin and cello (1897) (completed by Maximilian Steinberg) [45:40]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Grand Adagio (No. 20) from Raymonda, Op. 57 (arr. violin and piano) [4:40]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Flight of the Bumble Bee from The Tale of the Tzar Sultan (arr. violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz) [1:22]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Concert Waltz for orchestra in D major, Op. 47 (1893) (arr. piano by Felix Blumenfeld) [10:32]
Anatoly LYADOV (1855-1914)
Barcarolle for piano, Op. 44 (1898) [4:32]
Felix BLUMENFELD (1863-1931)
Etude, Op. 31/2, ‘Sur mer’ (On the sea) (1890) [5:12]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV
Pesenka for piano (1901) [1:52]
Miki Aoki (piano), Andrey Baranov (violin), Alexey Zhilin (cello),
March/November 2013, T-3 /Saal Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting, Berlin, Germany
PROFIL EDITION PH12033 [73:50] 

In the booklet notes to this release pianist Miki Aoki explains that the title The Belyayev Project acknowledges the prominent role of Mitrofan Belyayev, a wealthy timber merchant and amateur chamber musician, an influential figure in Russian music circles. Belyayev started several important initiatives to promote Russian music including establishing a series of Russian Symphonic Concerts and founding the M. P. Belyayev Publishing House in Leipzig. There at his own expense Belyayev published a large number of compositions by Russian composers with the intention of extending the reach of Russian music throughout Europe. In the booklet notes Wolfgang Teubner explains that 1,200 Russian works were published by Belyayev in their first 10 years. Wikipedia states that overall the house published over 2,000 Russian compositions; a quite remarkable number of works. Consequently all the composers selected for this release were assisted by Belyayev’s patronage.
 
The opening and most substantial work here is Rimsky-Korsakov’s four movement Trio in C minor. Best known for his much loved symphonic suite Scheherazade Rimsky-Korsakov wrote in several genres including opera, song and a small body of chamber music of which the Piano Quintet in B flat major (1876) is the score that I encounter the most often. Written in 1897 the Trio in C minor for violin, cello and piano was left incomplete at the composer’s death. It was in 1939 that Maximilian Steinberg completed the score ready for publication. This is a substantial and demanding work. Throughout the trio play with admirable concentration, although, I did detect a slight problem with the string intonation with a few rough edges to the unison. Packed with attractive material the opening Allegro assai feels windswept and has an unsettling undercurrent of disquiet. Next the very briskly taken Allegro,so disarmingly vibrant, is followed by a yearning Adagio. Its sense of heartbreak is intensified by a marvellous cello solo so ardently played by Alexey Zhilin. A touch dark and slightly unsettling the writing of the splendidly played Finale - Allegro assai is sharpened by anxiety-laden anticipation. From 1952 a magnificent played account from the Oistrakh Trio of David Oistrakh (violin), Sviatoslav Knushevitzky (cello) and Lev Oborin (piano) is still the recording by which rivals are judged; it has been reissued on Brilliant Classics 9272. The world-famous The Flight of the Bumble Bee from the Rimsky-Korsakov opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan was written in 1899/1900. It’s always pleasing to hear this very brief score. Here violinist Andrey Baranov and pianist Miki Aoki play an impressive arrangement prepared by Jascha Heifetz. It really tests the virtuosity of the players. Written in 1901, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Pesenka is a ‘Neapolitan’ in the Dorian mode - one of a group of piano works composed in memory of Ivan Aivazovsky, the Armenian-Russian painter. Well known as an encore piece, Pesenka is very short taking less than two minutes to perform. Miki Aoki adroitly brings out the moodiness from this attractive piece. 

Glazunov’s Grand Adagio (No. 20) is taken from his ballet Raymonda, Op. 57. This is an attractive piece, although not especially memorable in this arrangement for piano and violin. Andrey Baranov and Miki Aoki are in glorious form. The Concert Waltz for orchestra in D major, Op. 47 was composed by Glazunov in 1893. This time the arrangement for piano solo, completed by Felix Blumenfeld a pupil of the composer, is given an engaging performance by Miki Aoki. Anatoly Lyadov who studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov for a time wrote a substantial number of piano miniatures. Aoki has chosen to play the attractive Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 44 from 1898. It exhibits a lovely rocking quality. Blumenfeld also studied composition under Rimsky-Korsakov and his piano pieces inhabit a sound-world close to Chopin. His output includes a significant number of piano works from which Aoki plays the Etude, Op. 31/2, ‘Sur mer’ (On the Sea) from 1890. It’s a highly appealing score full of contrasting moods. 

Recorded in the studios at Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting, Berlin the sound quality of this Profil release is to a reasonable standard: clear and well balanced. Although, I did find myself wanting a little more depth - just a touch boxy - there is nothing too much to worry about.
 
Containing both celebrated and unfamiliar works this release proves a great success: enjoyable from start to finish. I’m excited about the extremely large number of additional works that could be included in subsequent Belyayev themed releases.  

Michael Cookson

Experience Classicsonline