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Glazunov: Music For Piano 4-Hands & 2 Pianos

Glazunov: Music For Piano 4-Hands & 2 Pianos

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A precocious Alexander Kostantinovich Glazunov at 16 took the Russian concert scene by storm. The teenage composer had plentiful musical ideas, a full mastery of form and enviable skill in orchestration, certainly influenced by his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. However, unlike his predecessors, the “Mighty Handful”, Glazunov lived through the political unrest that ultimately led to the Russian revolution and to communism. His directorship of the St Petersburg Conservatoire straddled Czarism and the first years of communist rule, yet ultimately his Russian musical ideal did not correspond to that of Soviet music (nor did his ideal of Russian life correspond to Soviet life). He consequently he fled the USSR, finding refuge in Western Europe, and Glazunov can now be counted among those unjustly neglected artists whose national pre-eminence was unseated by exile.

This double album for Brilliant Classics is therefore particularly welcome, shedding new light on Glazunov’s compositional output for piano duet. All but one of the works recorded here also exist in orchestral versions, but they are not necessarily derivative arrangements or reductions: it is not always easy to determine which version came first. The Fantasy Op.104 is the lone work on this program explicitly conceived for two pianos. Given Glazunov’s ability as an orchestrator, one might doubt the value of these piano versions as mere black-and-white sketches of original, colorful paintings. This is far from the case, as this recording demonstrates. Glazunov’s mastery of colors and voicings extends to the piano as well; the existence of the composer’s own orchestration can inform the pianists’ interpretive choices; and the sobriety of the piano version can highlight musical details that might go unnoticed in the lush orchestral treatment.

REVIEW:

This collection is a substantial addition to my library of music for two pianists, and came as a pleasant surprise. The big 30-minute, 3- movement Fantasy for 2 pianos is the only piece on this program written specifically and only for two pianists. It is also the high point here. The Middle-Ages Suite has four great movements that spread out over 25 minutes: Prelude, Scherzo, Serenade of the Troubadour, and Finale. The playing is both lyrical and exciting as the music demands. Based on this recording, piano duos will find this a worthy addition to their repertoire and I imagine quite effective in concert.

This husband-wife duo have been playing together professionally since 1998, so the excellent ensemble heard here is the result of their nearly 25 year partnership. The recorded sound is quite good, as is the detailed booklet essay by Chiara Bertoglio. There is a lot on this program worth getting to know, and I appreciate their pianism and musicological research.

-- American Record Guide (James Harrington)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Brilliant Classics
    • UPC/Barcode: 5028421960692
    • Item Number: BRI96069