MUSIC WEB RECORDING OF THE YEAR AWARDS 2010:
Another disc to force a reassessment of a ‘known' composer. This is one of a superb series titled Russian Piano Music Series from pianist Anthony Goldstone. In fact I would have been happy to include any of the volumes here because they all display the same virtues of massive technique, musicality allied to aptness, excellent engineering and production and insightful and entertaining liner notes from the pianist. Choosing the Lyapunov is based on the quality of the music – a stunningly exciting big Sonata amongst others – which forced me to think again about a composer I had previously thought of as a Russian also-ran.
Nick Barnard (see full review below)
THOMAS'S RECORD STORES, AUSTRALIA:
After many years of neglect, there seems to be something of a Renaissance of late-ninteenth century Russian piano music under way. After admirable CDs of Shostakovich (DDA25080), Rebikov (DDA25081), Gliere (DDA25083), and Arensky (DDA25085), Anthony Goldstone has turned his attention to the large-scale romantic solo piano works of Lyapunov. It is certainly unarguable that these works borrow their soundworld largely from of the music of Balakirev, his mentor, but given the quality of the model that is surely no bad thing; besides, many composers inherit large parts of their musical idiolect and we think no less of them for it. Both composers are overdue for a reappraisal, and it is pleasing to see new recordings of Balakirev's own solo piano works (CDA67806 with Danny Driver, and BRILL94086 with Alexander Paley) appearing this month.
Despite the resemblances, there are quite palpable differences between the two composers. Lyapunov's works have a breadth and grandness beyond that achieved by Balakirev, and in contrast with Balakirev's focussed and melancholy Sonata, Lyapunov's feels expansive and rhapsodic. This is attributable to a strong flavour of Liszt in the latter's soundworld, which works both for and against the music, making it gesturally coherent but also less quirkily distinctive than Balakirev's, imbuing it with an urbane and slightly aloof quality. That it delivers its riches less readily does not make Lyapunov's music less worthwhile; music that requires repeated hearing to be fully appreciated frequently proves to be of deeper and more enduring worth than the immediately assimilable.
There is another recording of these works (Marco Polo 8223468), but Anthony Goldstone's is in every way preferable for insight, virtuosity—at a high level, these works require serious pianism—and recording quality. Less melancholy than Rachmaninov, more characterful than Medtner, this is music of poise, elegance and dignity that will provide much listening satisfaction. Naxos have also just released recordings of his Piano and Violin Concertos (8570783 & 8570462); now is surely a perfect time to make his music's acquaintance.
CLASSICALNET (joint review with dda25081 and 25083):
These three new discs from Divine Art are dedicated to the Russian piano school and make for hugely interesting listening. The three composers are Vladimir Rebikov, Sergey Lyapunov and Reinhold Gliere, the latter two perhaps more familiar than the first one but a satisfying discovery nonetheless.
Rebikov was an excellent teacher and performer with his output including various chamber and orchestral works as well as several stage works. However his greatest legacy remains his varied and assorted collection of piano pieces which finds a good selection here. Apparently his later work includes some rather dissonant pieces which caused him to fall out of favour but the pieces recorded here remind one of such luminaries of his time such as Vaughan Williams, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Mompou.
Gliere who was of Belgian descent was also a dab hand on the piano as the 25 Preludes demonstrate with fantastic amounts of colour and quite amazing virtuosic demands. The same goes for the Mazurkas and also the Esquisses which have that tinge of oriental colour which we find in his orchestral works with the ballet "Red Poppy" and the massive 3 rd Symphony, "Ilya Murometz" coming to mind.
Finally there's the disc dedicated to Sergey Lyapunov who is also a master of the miniature but who composed a Piano Sonata which is unjustifiably rather neglected nowadays. I greatly enjoyed his Variations on a Georgian Theme as well as the moving "Fêtes de Noël", a lovingly created miniature for the Christmas period.
After listening to these performances for the best part of four hours, I have to say that I was bowled over by Anthony Goldstone's consummate artistry and sheer virtuosity in these multi faceted pieces. Like the Shostakovich volume, these three discs are a must acquisition for those who know and love things Russian. Fastidiously detailed notes and fine recordings complement what must be one of the highlights of piano recordings this year.
MUSIC AND VISION:
Conductor , pianist and a collector of folk songs (with the help of Balakirev and Lyadov), Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov 's piano music -- with the exception of his Twelve Transcendental Studies -- is still relatively unknown outside his native Russia , despite his conscious modeling on better known contemporaries. One can rightly nominate him as a Romantic outsider, although acknowledged masters like Chopin , Liszt and even the colourful Rimsky Korsakov, continue to reap the benefits of stardom.
Perhaps, his own performances , notably at The Henry Wood Proms (where Beethoven 's Piano Concerto No 4 in G major and Britten 's Diversions for the left hand were each described as notable events ) took the attention away from Lyapunov 's own music , which is modeled on established scores by more famous composers . He suffered the fate of our own York Bowen , yet time and a considerable flurry of interest has righted our revised recognition in that direction . Lyapunov's own music has been compared to other Russian nationals and other European International giants, which has partially hidden his name and reputation in dusty musical almanacs, halfway through the alphabet. But he is beginning to be included in programmes of younger keyboard players , eager to research into 'something new and original ', to whet audience 's appetites. Hamish Milne and Anthony Goldstone, both experts in this period of Russian composition , following the late Louis Kentner, should present a series of recitals entitled 'Those other Gifted Russians'.
You can clearly hear his teacher , Tchaikovsky , in the Piano Sonata ( 1905 ), along with Rimsky-Korsakov and an amalgam of other composing influences. Liszt's B minor Sonata is certainly the catalyst behind the bold gestures and the grandiloquence of ideas. Overstatement of the latter sometimes hides genuineness of intention, but there is no denying the Brahmsian depths of utterance. Barcarolle in G sharp minor has a similar kind of obsession to Tchaikovsky's Dumka -- it even suggests remembrances of some other remote village scene . There are some lovely counter ideas with a taste for roaming key sequences, including a Chopinesque cascade of colourful invention . Shorten the subject matter, and the contrasting ideas become better balanced : I can imagine John Ireland delving into the harmonies for positive material gain.
Variations on a Georgian Theme , Op 60, is all about bells , swirling Russian maidens with nostalgic regrets and pastimes. Rimsky's Scheherazade makes her entry mixed in with Ippolitov's Caucasian Sketches . It clamours with drastic affronts and incessant repetition . There is no let up, with a presto galop carrying us to a swift conclusion .
Fêtes de Noël are series of repeating chants of endearing charm . Chopin himself would relish the conscious attempts to escape the tonality through Lisztian embellishments.
Even more intriguing is the Mazurka (G minor, and the rest!) constantly slipping in and out of focus , the coda leaving us questioning its true intentions. What a tease! Delights galore, with performances matching the recording .
It is a praiseworthy enterprise to try to interest the western world in Russian piano music, the generic title of the series produced by Divine Art: one admires the perseverance and the devotion to this repertoire of the English pianist Anthony Goldstone, responsible for four of the five volumes that have appeared... The fourth volume [is] dedicated to some rare works by Sergei Lyapunov... Fortunately for lovers of romantic Russian music, Anthony Goldstone delivers unrivalled versions of all the pieces that he records...
The influence of Liszt is evident in [Lyapunov's] technically very demanding piano music... [The sonata contains] a succession of tumultuous episodes, complicated by chains of five-note chords in both hands – writing that sometimes makes direct reference to the orchestra... Anthony Goldstone succeeds, with an exemplary fidelity to the text, in respecting the minutest indications of nuances, delineating the constant variations in atmosphere, unlocking the strands, with an intelligence and a love reflected in his booklet notes. He never stops at technical flamboyance, giving priority to the lyricism and the melody... Happily he also knows how to give all the necessary projection to imagery when the music becomes pictorial and one can see caravans snaking through the desert in The Procession of the Magi, when singers can be heard approaching from the distance intoning a religious chorale, for the music of Lyapunov is as strongly marked by exotic images as by liturgical tradition: with what seems to us today a certain nostalgic tenderness, mixed with salon-upholstered delicacy, it evokes a world about to disappear, which celebrates, with a naive joy, age-old traditions that from one moment to the next might vanish in a puff of smoke...
This superb disc ... of Russian music ... magnificently interpreted by an English pianist ... obviously deserves to be available anew.
Fred Audin (translated from French)
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE:
Volume 4 of the Russian Piano Music Series brings us works of Sergei Liapounov (1859-1924), who is all but forgotten today. Still, in the annals of recorded music his piano works have had a few outings before, and collectors are faced with a conundrum with respect to acquiring this part of his output.
Anthony Goldstone is no slouch when it comes to performing rare and difficult music. The Lisztian Piano Sonata, with its echoes of Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakoff, has been recorded a few times before, most notably by Karl-Andreas Kolly on Novalis (July/Aug 2005) and Dorothy Elliot Schechter on Marco Polo (Nov/Dec 1993). Neither is currently available. We can dispense with Schechter, since she makes heavy weight of the piece and manages to stretch it out to a remarkable 32 minutes (others knock at least five minutes off this time), and sounds boxy. She does include several pieces not found on the other recordings. I would be hard pressed to decide between Goldstone and Kolly, the latter including the attractive Six Easy Pieces not found elsewhere. Further complicating matters, Goldstone includes a Barcarolle, Nocturne, and Mazurka that you will have to give up if you do not purchase his recording. Each of these breathes the Russian lyrical soul, and would be a loss for the serious piano collector. The Variations on a Georgian Theme and Fetes de Noel are included on both the Goldstone and Kolly discs and are well worth having.
If you already have Kolly, be reasonably content. If you have neither, get Goldstone and lament the loss of the all too brief but endear ing Six Easy Pieces. To get all of the pieces you will have to get all three recordings. If you have all three and want to create additional shelf space, you might dispense with the Schechter. Her additional pieces are also less interesting than the others. Excellent notes by Goldstone and sonorous recorded sound.
Goldstone has simply proven himself to be one cool cat. Diving into the well of unsung Russian classical composers yet again, he's produced another winner as he digs into the ornate works of Lyapunov, a composer who you've probably never heard of if you are reading this on this side of Vladivostok. The composer must have pissed off someone in the Kremlin to have his works so criminally ignored unless Goldstone adds so much to the interpretation that he's playing things that were never heard. If you love classical piano with a flourish, this is right up your alley. With never a dull moment, you'll fall in love with something you should have heard a long time ago. Well done.
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST:
Liverpool born Anthony Goldstone plays piano music by the Russian Sergei Lyapunov, who died in 1924 aged 65. This CD from Divine Art has a sonata, a Christmas suite, variations on a Georgian theme and three shorter pieces making an attractive programme. One wonders why we don't hear more of this romantic composer? It's a feast for piano buffs.
Having recently enjoyed one of the other releases in this series performed by Anthony Goldstone I was particularly pleased to receive this disc to review. All of the good opinions of the other CD - Glière's piano music - are repeated if not reinforced here; this is an excellent disc and one that should not be missed by lovers of Russian romantic solo piano repertoire. This is not its first incarnation - the playright is from 2000 and this exact programme was released on now-defunct Olympia . Much as I enjoy Glière I would have to say that I think the music here by Lyapunov is superior. As a symphonic composer he is one of the late Russian romantics whose music has not inspired me as much as others. On the strength of the current CD I am going to revisit my old Svetlanov/Melodiya recordings and see how they sound now.
As before Anthony Goldstone proves to be a superb guide to this unfamiliar repertoire. He has the full measure of it musically as well as technically. What I particularly admire is the way he gauges his performance to fit the implicit scale of the work under his fingers. So the heroic romantic Sonata in F minor Op.27 that opens the programme is played with virtuosic grandeur and a rich resonant tone but the delightful Fêtes de Noël are given the light and affectionate touch they deserve. Goldstone provides also an illuminating and enthusiastic liner note - a model of its kind, add an excellent recording and you will understand my enthusiasm.
Lyapunov is another of those composers whose life straddled the extraordinary events of the Russian Revolution. Musically though his work belongs to the end of the 19 th Century and for all the important teaching posts he held in St. Petersburg he was naturally conservative. What is clear though from this programme is that he forged for himself a distinct personal style which is a subtle amalgam of influences ranging from Chopin to Liszt but also absorbing Russian Orthodox chant and folk music. All of these can be heard in the aforementioned sonata written between 1906-8. Interestingly the dedication is to Karl Klindworth whose extraordinary transcription of Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini I reviewed on this site last year. Klindworth was one of Lyapunov's teachers and in turn a pupil of Liszt. So it should not be wholly surprising that the model is the Liszt Sonata in B minor and its revolutionary four-movements-in-one form. But this is no slavish imitation - in some ways Lyapunov is more subtle than Liszt in his melodic transformations that gives the work its structural unity. Goldstone's analysis of the work in the liner is as lucid and intelligent as his performance of the notes. I'm not sure if it because of the more muscular style of the actual music but the recording here sounds a little richer and fuller than that which was achieved in the same venue two years later for the Glière recital. The sonata opens in stormy and dramatic mood which is balanced by a beautiful long-breathed second subject. Goldstone has exactly the right feel for the natural ebb and flow this music requires. I love the impetuous virtuosic way he allows the music to push on or linger lovingly yet all without sounding arch or self-conscious. His ability to balance the inner voices is exemplary too - this is richly complex music which could descend into chaos all too easily in lesser hands. An interesting comparison can be made with Bax's Piano Sonata No.1 which was written only some 2 years later and was influenced both by the Liszt and more significantly an extended visit to Russia . Side by side the Lyapunov does sound more reactionary than the Bax - which is not the most modern piano work circa 1910 by a long way itself! - but does that really matter more than 100 years after the event?, not a jot in my book. Try dipping into the Lyapunov sonata just as the “2 nd” movement/section starts [track 2] for a marvelous example of the composer's gently passionate lyrical gift and how well this is molded by Goldstone. The way this theme transforms into something more liturgical is beautifully handled by both composer and pianist - it does achieve the aural sleight-of-hand equivalent of happening before you, the listener, was aware what was going on. Goldstone paces the numerous climaxes in the work superbly too. It would be all too easy to allow this style of music to ‘gush' but again Goldstone's balance between fluency and flamboyance is perfectly achieved. Again the dissolve into the richly figured return of earlier lyrical material is brilliantly managed by one and all. The final peroration is glorious - positively cinematic in its heroic grandeur, to be suddenly replaced by a gentler chorale-like prayer which rises up through the keyboard as it fades away with a final gruff paragraph ending the work in quiet reflection. This is an instantly appealing work which would be enjoyed by anyone with a penchant for big-boned piano repertoire. I was having a quick browse to see if there was much competition in the catalogue for the music recorded here. I see there was (is?) a Marco Polo disc which includes the Sonata and the Variations on a Georgian Theme Op.60 . Not having heard it I cannot make a comparison BUT I do see the timing of the sonata on that disc is a good 7:00 minutes longer than the version here which is a staggering difference in a 25 minute work. I can't imagine for a second Goldstone has cut a bar and certainly does not sound at all rushed which leaves ones speculating about the other performance. The only other competition is from a disc on Dynamic which includes the Fêtes de Noël. This is performed by Marco Rapetti whose recital of Borodin's piano music I reviewed recently which I found suffered from gross distortions to the pulse and shape of the music. Exactly the kind of disfigurement Goldstone avoids here.
Although the sonata is the stand-out work here it represents just under 1/3 of the disc and all of the other music here is of considerable worth as well. The Barcarolle in G sharp minor Op.46 is the composer's only attempt in this form. It is by turns languorous and sensual - Goldstone points out that Lyapunov's use of a flattened 2 nd note in the scale adds some distinctly oriental spice to proceedings but ultimately this is elegant rather than erotic. The Variations on a Georgian Theme Op.60 date from 1914-15 and resolutely ignores the passing years and evolving musical trends let alone the political turmoil at home and abroad. Putting that to one side this is another instantly appealing work. The theme is oriental in the way that gives more than a nod to Borodin in Polovtsian mode. Again, Goldstone's control and ability to bring together the widely divergent variations into a coherent whole is superb as is the clarity of his articulation and subtle pedaling [track 7 shows this to great effect]. These are very pictorial short variations - you can imagine them being given descriptive titles, this is hugely enjoyable vibrant unpretentious music - by the end it sounds as though the piano has just started slipping out of tune!
Aside from the Sonata the piece I enjoyed most on the disc were the four Fêtes de Noël . Although far from simple to play I am sure they capture an innocent wonder through an amalgam of Orthodox melodies, folk melodies and an evocation of the first Christmas. So in Nuit de Noël the shepherd's pipes call from near and far (beautifully evoked by Goldstone's sensitive touch), a pastoral interludes leads to an Orthodox hymn announcing the Christmas message and an exultant return of the pipe melody. The Cortège des mages is a brisk no -nonsense affair, the tempo dictated by the need to allow the choral-like counter melody to speak at a reasonable speed. The Russian influence is again clear with the appearance of pealing festive bells. The final two movements were written bringing the Christmas story to the 1910 present. In Chanteurs des Noëls Lyapunov skillfully creates the effect of singers approaching from the distance building to another powerful climax. As Goldstone puts it so neatly in the liner the last movement, Chant de Noël is in “skittish holiday mood” with a neatly understated throwaway ending. I find this work utterly charming. The disc is completed with a beautifully lyrical Nocturne - Lyapunov's only composition given that title - and his 8 th and last Mazurka . These simply underline and reiterate the quality of what has gone before and provide a very fitting close to a deeply satisfying programme.
This is a disc in which all those involved can take great pride. Revelatory repertoire superbly performed, recorded and beautifully presented.
PIANIST (joint review of 25081, 25083, 25084, 25085):
More Russian repertoire comes from the pianist Anthony Goldstone who has probably the widest palette of all – and surely the brightest of all waistcoats. Goldstone is known for his extensive series of four-handed recordings with Caroline Clemmow and his solo recordings are all of immense interest. Readers may remember my job over his recent release of music inspired by dances. Here Goldstone embarks on a (long, I hope) series of Russian piano music. Composers who lived now brought out into the daylight: Arensky, with his tuneful Preludes: Lyapunov, a minor Liszt follower: Glière, more known for his large-scale orchestral music: and the least-known Rebikov, who was, however, immortalised by his Christmas Tree , once a stalwart of piano score anthologies. All of Goldstone's discs are highly satisfying, played with power and conviction and if there are not true masterpieces among the many smaller works, they are far more rewarding to listen to than many of the minor British composers living in the shadow of Elgar and Vaughan Williams.
Marius Dawn Pianist Recommended Recording
MUSICA (Italy) (joint review of vols 1-5):
This is a nice collection of CDs of the Russian piano repertoire. The next two are soon to be released [and are now available on divine art dda25095 and 25096] , but the fact that they will include Rachmaninov's and Prokofiev's pieces makes them less interesting, at least for their rarity. While, instead, recordings completely devoted to works by Arensky, Lyapunov, Glière and Rebikov are not released every day. On this our acknowledgements go to the British company [Divine Art], new on the Italian market.. The interpreter of the four single-composer CDs and also the author of the excellent informative notes included is Anthony Goldstone; while the first CD of the collection, which features several composers, is interpreted by Murray McLachlan: Kabalevsky's and Shostakovich's sonatas are not new to the record industry, but the pieces by Myaskovsky, Stevenson and Shchedrin – though not at their first recording here – can be considered real rarities.
The four composers of the monographic CDs represent, in the Russian music scene, as many different positions, equidistant from both Romanticism and Impressionism, for sure closer to Tchaikovsky than to Mussorgsky and the Group of Five; and in the case of Rebikov and Glière, who died in 1920 and 1956 – the modernistic poetics from the 20th century.
Having lived a short and profligate life, Anton Arensky left less rich a production than he could have. Still, he wrote a hundred pieces for piano, inspired by the romanticism of Chopin and Tchaikovsky, which informed his work to the utmost. He also taught Rachmaninov and Scriabin. These days Arensky is mainly renowned for the lovely waltz from the first Suite for two pianos, but his Studies and Preludes are valuable too; and mainly the six Essais sur des rythmes oubliées , Op.28, with its unusual metres.
Sergei Lyapunov (who lived a longer and more sober life than Arensky but one which was no more productive) was also a great romantic, in the line of Chopin, Liszt and Anton Rubinstein, but in his works the popular Russian tradition is more present, because he was a close friend and pupil of Balakirev, father of the “Five”, who dedicated to Lyapunov the Sonata for piano he finally completed in 1905. In answer to this Lyapunov composed the Sonata Goldstone plays here. If Arensky is renowned for his lovely waltz, works by Lyapunov are performed too every now and then, mainly during the conservatoire exams: especially some of the twelve Transcendental Studies that complete the tonal cycle Liszt started with his works of this name. The CD includes the sonata and some other works, the well-known Fêtes de Noël , Op.41, among them.
Vladimir Rebikov, the third of these composers to be born in the 1860s, died in 1920; though far less renowned than the two abovementioned, he produced a much more innovative musical language: Stravinsky himself mentions him in this sense. His innovations anticipate certain harmonic aspects of the 20th century (whole-tone system, unresolved harmonies, pieces without bars and metre, tone clusters). At the beginning of the CD Goldstone performs two short pieces where Rebikov anticipates two moments that are reminiscent of both Stravinsky ( Le sacre du printemps ) and Messiaen ( Quatuor pour la fin du temps ). Apart from this peculiarity, Rebikov's piano production, also because of his natural bent for teaching, is made up of short and very short pieces (on the CD sixteen out of forty-three last less than one minute). However, there is also a major work, a ‘tableau musical-psycologique' entitled Esclavage et liberté (Op.22). Other oddities: a cycle of seven pieces that lasts three minutes and a half ( Une fête , Op.38) and one out of four pieces written without accidentals, on white keys only ( Chansons blanches , Op.48).
While Rebikov and Lyapunov died shortly after the establishment of the Soviet regime, Reinhold Glière lived all through the period of Stalinism, outliving the dictator himself by three years. As a composer he remained a traditionalist Romantic, and he didn't reject the opportunity to celebrate a few feasts of the new regime with his music. Also Glière wrote short pieces for piano, mainly in Chopin's tradition but as well in that Russian piano music style of the day, led by the influence of Scriabin. A wonderful pianist, Arensky's and Taneyev's pupil, he reached his creative peak in the 25 Preludes Op.30 ( twenty-five as he adds to the series – which follows Bach's, not Chopin's harmonic order – one last Prelude in C major, just as Alkan did): an impressive, extremely varied and interesting series. The spirit of Chopin, inherited through his Polish mother, marks Glière's short Mazurka (Op.29), and the eloquent simplicity of the Esquisses Op.47 betrays educational, but mostly appropriate, intentions. As for his discography, Anthony Goldstone is an interpreter we can't overlook. The repertoire he presents is not just special and precious, but also put forward with remarkable cultural intelligence: each one of his CDs can be said to develop a theme. This knowledge of the various repertoires also enables him to move with extreme versatility from genre to genre, from composer to composer, from character to character: from the sentimentalism, a little frivolous, of some of Arensky's pieces, to the irony of work by Rebikov; from Lyapunov's Russian-style harmonies to the cyclical integrity of Glière's Preludes , everything performed through the vaguely archaic sound of a Grotrian piano, Goldstone convinces and charms us.