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Piano Music from a Russian Dynasty
Dmitry Korostelyov (piano)
Olga Solovieva (piano - Anatoly Liadov)
rec. 2020-21, Mosfilm-Ton Studios, Moscow.

This CD gives musical voice to six composers and two Russian artistic dynasties: the Liadovs and Pomazanskys. The essentials draw on piano music by three Liadovs, two Pomazanskys and … one Konstantin Antipov.

Together, these familial composers, over the course of 150 years, furnished Russian culture with nearly twenty musical and theatrical performers, conductors, composers and ballet dancers. The programme of this disc comprehends salon miniatures, dance music and smaller-scale more serious essays especially the six by Anatoly Liadov - he of that famous failed Firebird ballet commission (the one that opened the door to Stravinsky) and his vivid brood of little jewels of tone poems including Baba Yaga¸ Kikimora and The Enchanted Lake (sample these and others on Chandos (Sinaisky), Melodiya (Svetlanov) and Brilliant (Shpiller).

Unsurprisingly the CD presents numerous world premičre recordings. The titles usually reference dances (the shadow of Viennese and Waltz dynasties comes and goes), ballets and on one occasion an historical figure: Garibaldi.

A cosmopolitan mix for composers whose music echoed around the salons and ballrooms of tsarist St Petersburg and Moscow. With the exception of the works by Anatoly Liadov there are no great emotional depths here. In terms of Piano Classics’ well-stocked catalogue this music is more Széchenyi than Stanchinsky. Instead, we experience a finessed pleasure in salon delights and a distant nostalgia.

The lives of these composers collectively spanned two centuries and pre-and post-revolutionary times. The earliest born came into the world in 1808 and the longest surviving died in 1948. Even so their language is very much of the nineteenth century and speaks in aristocratic terms. Eugeny Ivanovich Pomazansky is the only exception with his three brief pieces dating from the nineteenth century but harnessed to the last tsarist century by chains with silvery links. This is not music on a large emotional scale.

Konstantin Nikolayevich Liadov was the father of the ‘famous’ Anatoly Konstantinovich Liadov. He was chief conductor of the Imperial Russian Opera and presided over premieres of numerous Russian operatic works. 1940 saw him taking the helm of a music school in Pskov. He wrote music throughout his life but almost all of his manuscripts are lost. His stately Polka Militaire boasts a casual yet shapely romance. In fact, all his pieces here are characterised by a lofty aristocratic air from the grumbling Marche Funebre to the light-stepping Garibaldi Quadrille.

The music by Konstantin Afanasievich Antipov strikes slightly deeper emotional roots with admiration cast in the same directions as Medtner and Bortkiewicz. Antipov studied composition in St Petersburg under Rimsky-Korsakov. There are 13 opus numbered sets, mostly for solo piano but also an Allegro Symphonique for orchestra and one set of songs. He gave up composition in the late 1890s.

Alexander Nikolayevich Liadov has his dates firmly anchored in the nineteenth century. He was a ballet and ballroom conductor and his halcyon days (a denizen of the Imperial Theatre) were in the 1840s. His four-movement piece Housewarming comprises light-hearted dance movements.

Ivan Aleksandrovich Pomazansky’s very fine polka (dedicated to Anatoly Liadov, as it happens) makes a fair pass at transcending the emotional shallows. Its composer played the harp and was a choir-master who tutored choruses for premieres of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas and for Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. At Tchaikovsky’s request, Pomazansky arranged the opera The Oprichnik for piano, and it is said Tchaikovsky wrote a large harp part in the opera, specifically for Pomazansky.

The work of Anatoly Konstantinovich Liadov concludes the programme. His piano miniatures have been recorded in quantity by Stephen Coombs for Hyperion. There is something of the tempest in this music and Novinka (or Novelette) gallops furiously. In The Glade is the exception, being more elfin than serving to bend the saplings double. Liadov also has the strongest Russian nationalist flavour as for example in About Olden Times which also exists in orchestral form.

This recording represents the modern Steinway, Model D with naked clarity. Korostelyov and Solovieva spin these salon pieces with a clear-eyed sympathy for the idioms.

The liner-notes (in English and German) are by Igor Prokhorov, Anatoly Evgen’evich Pomazansky and the two pianists. The latter lift the spirits with brisk elan and thoughtful meditation.

Rob Barnett

Konstantin Nikolayevich LIADOV (1820-1871)
1 Tarantelle (c.1844) [3:18]
2 Polka militaire (1852) [1:40]
3 Polka-mazurka, "La Silphide" (c.1850s) [3:34]
4 Marche funčbre (1852) [5:47]
5 Garibaldi-quadrille (c.1869) [5:42]
6 Polka russe (c.1852) [2:38]
7 Quadrille, "Mariage Russe" (1852) [5:57]
Eugeny Ivanovich POMAZANSKY (1883-1948)
8 Berceuse (c1940s) [0:47]
9 Cuckoo (?1940s) [0:27]
10 Chanson d'automne (c.1940s) [0:31]
Konstantin Afanasievich ANTIPOV (1858-1936)
Two preludes, op. 8 [5:00]
11 No. 1. Allegretto [1:41]
12 No. 2. Andantino [3:01]
13 Variations on a theme, "chizhyk-pyzhyk" (1892) [1:05]
14 Nocturne in a-flat major, op. 12 [3:16]
Ivan Aleksandrovich POMAZANSKY 1848-1918)
19 Polka (c1880s) [2:54]
Anatoly Konstantinovich LIADOV (1855-1914)
20 2 p'yesď (2 pieces), op. 24: no. 1. Prelude in e major (1890) [3:25]
21 Novinka (novelette), op. 20 (1889) [2:57]
22 Prelude in B Major, op. 42, no. 2 (1898) [0:43]
23 Na luzhayke: nabrosok (in the glade: sketch), op. 23 (1890) [2:58]
24 Zoryushka (sketch fragment) (1889) [0:36]
25 Pro starinu (about olden times), op. 21 (1889) [5:08]

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