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Miniatures Russes
Rarities for Piano by Arensky & Lyadov
Swetlana Meermann-Muret (piano)
rec. March 2020, SWR Studio Kaiserlautern, Germany
GENUIN GEN21730 [59:04]

Anatoly Lyadov may not have written large-scale works - there are no symphonies or operas, and he forged no new paths, contentedly writing miniatures in a wonderfully rich late romantic post Chopin style - but he does what he does to perfection. Though his piano music has not exactly been ignored – Sviatislav Richter, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Vladimir Sofronitsky and Maria Grinberg are just some of the big names that recorded his music – it is only his Musical Snuffbox that is really heard in concert nowadays and then usually as an encore. Piano-wise things have been much the same for his younger compatriot and fellow Rimsky-Korsakov pupil Anton Arensky; although Arensky wrote a great deal of piano music, starting with his Op 1 Canonic Pieces right through to his Etudes Op 74 written in the year before his death it is only the waltz from his first Suite for two pianos that has held on in the repertoire. Unlike Lyadov he wrote many large-scale works, including a fine Piano Concerto and several chamber works that remain popular to this day.

Swetlana Meermann-Muret has chosen a representative selection from both composer's work. These beautifully crafted pieces may be miniatures but there is a world of emotion contained within their brief span. Tempestuous thoughts in the Prélude Op 46 No 3 sit alongside the yearning sadness of the Op 40 Prélude, the bittersweet, Op 57 No 1 and the dreamily dancing op.10 no.1. One of my favourites is the achingly sad Prélude op.11 no.1, melancholy seeping from its every note. Russian nostalgia sits comfortably among many of these pieces but there are lighter moments, notably the delightful Etude Op 5, dedicated to Balakirev, displaying figuration that would fit well into Islamey though Lyadov's is an altogether more urbane creature. Uplifting too is the elegantly intricate Barcarolle that opens the recital (and at just over 4 minutes the longest piece here).

Ms Meermann-Muret has chosen works from just two of Arensky's collections; four pieces from his 24 Morceaux caractéristiques and his six pieces Op 53. His piano music does not carry the heavy Russian influence that Lyadov's does, sounding at times like post-Mendelssohn Germanic Songs without words though he gets close with the lilting Romance, the stormy Etude from Op 53. And especially the Elégie from Op 36, with its gentle hints of Tchaikovsky and a delightful discovery for me.

I have to say that this recital is a delight from the first note. All of these pieces are played with style and elegance, a real sense of melody and a versatile and responsive technique. The music is show in its best light and Swetlana Meermann-Muret is easily the match of Marco Rapetti who recorded the complete Lyadov piano music on 5 discs from Brilliant Classics (94155 Review) and the sound is better. If you are not after the complete piano works and want the attractive Arensky to boot this is a well constructed, representative and lovingly played collection.

Rob Challinor

Anatoly Konstantinovich LYADOV (1855-1914)
Barcarolle in F-sharp major Op 44 (1898) [4:17]
Bagatelle in D-flat major Op 30 (1889) [2:08]
2 Pieces for piano Op 9 (1884)
No 1 Valse in B minor [1:46] No 2 Mazurka in A-flat major [2:59]
3 Pieces for piano Op 57 (1900-05)
No 1 Prélude in D-flat major [2:17] No 2 Valse in E-flat major [1:47]
No 3 Mazurka in F minor [1:24]
Prélude in F minor – thème russe Op 33 No 1 (1889) [1:10]
Prélude in B minor Op 11 No 1 (1886) [3:20]
Prélude in D-flat major Op 10 No 1 (1885) [1:39]
Prélude in B-flat major Op 31 No 2 (1893) [2:32]
Prélude in G minor Op 46 No 2 (1899) [00:50]
Prélude in D minor Op 40 No 3 (1897) [1:25]
Etude in A-flat major Op 5 (1881) [2:55]
Anton Stepanovich ARENSKY (1861-1906)
From 24 Morceaux caractéristiques Op 36 (1894):
No 3 Nocturne in D-flat major [3:06] No 4 Petite ballade in C-sharp minor [3:10]
No 16 Elégie in G minor [3:43] No 19 Rêverie de printemps in A major [2:01]
Six Pieces Op 53 (1901):
No 1 Prélude in E minor [3:25] No 2 Scherzo in E major [3:10]
No 3 Elégie in G minor [3:09] No 4 Mazurka in G major [1:57]
No 5 Romance in F major [2:48] No 6 Etude in F major [2:01]

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