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Anatoly LYADOV (1855-1914)
Complete Piano Music - Volume One
Biryulki, Op.2 (1876) [11:52]
Six Morceaux, Op.3 (1876-77) [11:36]
Arabesques, Op.4 (1878) [10:21]
Etude, Op.5 (1881) [2:55]
Impromptu, Op.6 (1881) 1:27]
Deux Intermezzi, Op.7 (1881) [4:45]
Deux Intermezzi, Op.8 (1883) [4:51]
Deux Morceaux, Op.9 (1883) [3:56]
Deux Morceaux, Op.10 (1884) [5:33]
Deux Morceaux, Op.11 (1885) [6:20]
Olga Solovieva (piano)
rec. December 2005, and April 2008, Concert Hall of Moscow Theatre and Concert Centre
TOCCATA TOCC 0082 [64:41]

It’s almost inevitable that if you mention the name Liadov (or Lyadov) to an old-school pianist back come the words ‘Musical Snuffbox’. It is a much recorded encore, a piece of sonic fluff that never fails to please, not least when dispatched by some of the great tonalists and practitioners of pianistic legerdemain of old. If this implies miniaturist tendencies in the Russian composer, then that is a fair appraisal. But what Toccata’s series is clearly attempting to suggest in its first volume of the complete piano works is that whilst Lyadov was a miniaturist, he was an extensive miniaturist.
Thus we punctiliously follow the opus numbers from opp. two to eleven – all are devoted to solo piano works – charting a course from 1876 to 1885, and not a snuffbox in sight or sound. The Op.2 set is called Biryulki which means ‘trifles’ or, more specifically ‘spillikins’, which are used in the game called ‘Pick-up-sticks’. But an absolutely precise translation isn’t really important. This set coincided with Lyadov’s expulsion from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire due to his poor attendance record – a prefiguring of Martinů’s Prague expulsion for reasons of ‘incorrigible laziness’. This Op.2 set was his first solo piano piece, composed when he was 20, and shows unmistakeable signs of the influence of Schumann’s Carnaval. Perhaps the most titillating of the fourteen very brief movements – some 30 seconds long – is the fourth, where there are some ingenious proto-Ragtime touches. The Op.3 Morceaux include a delicious Prelude, and antique Gigue, a fugue and a sequence of no fewer than three Mazurkas, of which two are making first-ever appearances on disc. It’s not surprising that a set as unbalanced as this has never received a previous complete recording, but the best of it is enticing.
Only the last of the Op.4 Arabesques has been recorded before and that seems like a real oversight as they are consistently good, and full of interest – just the lilting B section of the second, an Allegretto, serves notice of how appealing and unstuffy are these little pieces. Romantic virtuosity suffuses the Op.5 Etude whilst the first of the Op.7 Intermezzi is buoyant, indeed somewhat boisterous – perhaps for that reason alone it’s never before been recorded. Aided by a fine, clear acoustic we really can hear just how well characterised are Olga Solovieva’s readings. She makes the most of the strong contrasts between the two Morceaux, Op.9 and brings a Chopinesque quality to bear on the Op.9 Waltz movement and the Prelude of the Op.10 set. The Mazurka of Op.9 is suffused in folkloric influence.
In short, these are charming, deft performances, coolly but not clinically recorded in 2005 and 2008. They are splendidly crafted, and differ quite a lot from others who have ventured into the repertoire. Inna Poroshina has recorded a slew of Lyadov on ESS1045 – she will be better known, probably, for her complete set of Dvořák’s piano music, now on Brilliant. A more widely promoted release is Stephen Coombes’ single-disc recital of Lyadov’s music [CDA66986]. The only overlap with Solovieva is the Op.11 set. Her recording is much brighter, his is more veiled tonally, and Coombes perhaps brings out the music’s sadness a touch more consistently. Coombes tends consistently to be the more veiled, romantic practitioner in this repertoire, possibly a superior colourist. But Solovieva brings tremendous vigour and strength to these performances, and she has made an excellent, vibrant start to her series.
Jonathan Woolf

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