Sergei LYAPUNOV (1859-1924)
Piano Music
Three Pieces, Op.1 (1888)* [12:30]
Two Mazurkas, Op.9 (1898) [9:33]
Mazurka No.5 in B flat minor, Op.21 (1903) [4:11]
Valse-Impromptu No.2 in G flat major, Op.29 (1908) [2:36]
Mazurka No.7 in G sharp minor, Op.31 (1908) [7:50]
Scherzo in B flat minor, Op45 (1911)* [10:05]
Sonatina in D flat major, Op.45 (1917)* [9:23]
Valse-impromptu No.3 in E major, OP.70 (1919) [5:22]
Margarita Glebov (piano)
rec. Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA, 30 May 2012, 15 March 2013
*first recordings
Having listened to this disc it is almost inconceivable that these works are not better known or programmed more often in concerts. This is especially considering the popularity of the first piano concerto, and his Twelve Transcendental Etudes in Memory of Liszt Op.11 (1900-5) among certain pianists.
The Three Pieces, Op.1 that open the disc had to wait an unbelievable 124 years to be recorded. They are delectable and delicately constructed pieces that exude calm. They made me smile with delight. Entering the Moscow Conservatoire in 1878 Lyapunov was one of the very last students of Tchaikovsky, before he left within two months of his arrival. The great composer clearly exerted a considerable influence on the young man as, for example, the third piece, Valse in A flat major shows. Other influences include Chopin and Liszt. The aforementioned twelve studies were written by Lyapunov to complete Liszt’s own projected but unfinished set. In addition shades of Balakirev can be heard at times in his output as in his Mazurka in D flat major from which I already have an ear worm in the shape of its main theme. This is likely to persist for some time to come but I have no complaints.
From Wikipedia I learned that “in 1893 the Imperial Geographical Society commissioned Lyapunov, along with Balakirev and  Anatoly Lyadov, to gather folksongs from the regions of  Vologda,  Vyatka (now Kirov)  and  Kostroma. They collected nearly 300 songs, which the society published in 1897. Lyapunov arranged 30 of these songs for voice and piano and used authentic folk songs in several of his compositions during the 1890s.” These influences can be detected throughout Lyapunov’s solo piano output and he certainly used them to good effect. That is the case in his Mazurka No.5 in B flat minor, Op.21 which could be from nowhere but Russia and which has an extremely catchy tune as its main theme. This is explored and subjected to variations throughout its considerable length.
Two Valse-Impromptus follow which were published three years apart and which once again show the influence Lyapunov drew from Liszt, both of which are delightfully elegant. Chopin’s influence is then very much to the fore in Lyapunov’s Mazurka No.7 in G sharp minor, Op.31 from 1908. With its delicate phrasing one could easily believe that it is the Polish master one was listening to rather than a Russian writing sixty years later.
The next two works are first recordings, as were those that opened the disc, this time dating from 1911 and 1917 respectively. The first is his Scherzo in B flat major, Op.65. With its substantial ten minute length, is a challenging work for pianists to tackle. There are moments when the influence of Liszt is again apparent with some diabolic whirling reminiscent of his Danse Macabre which drives the music forward to an impressive conclusion. His Sonatina in D flat major, Op.65 by contrast is stately and elegant in the first two movements. The concluding Allegro propels the work to a dynamic close.
This disc comes to a conclusion with a third Valse-Impromptu in E major which proved to be the last solo piano work published in his lifetime and which is especially graceful.
This is a really enjoyable disc of music by an unfairly neglected composer and these pieces show that they are worthy of far greater exposure on disc as well as in the concert hall.
The Russian-American pianist Margarita Glebov plays everything with an attractive sensitivity which brings out the very best in the delicate nature of these pieces.
Toccata is doing an extremely valuable job in its concentration on the piano works of some really unknown composers and bringing them out from obscurity. I noted in the accompanying brochure that they include more Russians such as Herman Galynin, Viktor Rosenko, Alexander Goldenweiser, Anatoly Lyadov and one of my great discoveries of 2013, Alexander Tcherepnin. Among these names there is bound to be much wonderful music to discover.
Steve Arloff 

A really enjoyable disc of music by an unfairly neglected composer. 

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