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.
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