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TCHAIKOVSKY / BALAKIREV / GLAZUNOV: Arrangements for 2 Pianos 8 Hands (Aurora Quartett) (Naxos: 8.557717)



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Russian Romantic Piano Transcriptions for Two Pianos Eight Hands   It was not only Chopin and Liszt who performed works for two pianos eight hands, as they did, for example, in Rouen in 1838, performing Beethoven's Eighth Symphony together with colleagues. Playing music for eight hands was widespread in the nineteenth century, and numerous works were written, both original compositions and transcriptions. The following works were written for two pianos eight hands by the composers themselves, with the exception of Tschaikovsky's Italian Capriccio, which is a transcription by his colleague Eduard Langer. Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, born in Votkinsk/Ural in 1840, the son of a mine owner, had piano lessons from an early age. After studying law, he took employment at the Ministry of Justice in St Petersburg, before deciding in 1862 to follow his musical inclination and study at the new Conservatory with its founder Anton Rubinstein. In 1866 he moved to Moscow to teach at the new Moscow Conservatory, recently founded by Anton's brother Nikolay, and it was there that he wrote and had performed his first successful compositions. While winning fame in Russia and abroad - his Piano Concerto No. 1 had its world premi?¿re in Boston in 1875 with Hans von B??low - he underwent serious crises in his private life. After marrying Antonina Milyukova in 1877, he quickly separated from her, and in the course of a subsequent breakdown tried to commit suicide. Morally and financially he was generously supported by his patron Nadezhda von Meck. In 1887 Tchaikovsky had his first experience as a conductor, and in the following years he undertook concert tours throughout Europe and America, enjoying triumphant success. He died in 1893, supposed by some to have committed suicide after a possible scandal resulting from his homosexuality. "At the moment we are living in the times of Carnival", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Rome in 1880. "The jolliness of the local people is honest and casual. They breathe it with the warm beautiful air... I am still in an irritable mood. But I am working successfully so that I have already completed the sketches for an Italian fantasy on folk-songs. With the beautiful melodies which I have partly taken from collections, partly heard on the streets, the fantasy will be quite effective." This fantasy, the Italian Capriccio, was completed in the same year and dedicated to the cellist Karl Davidov. The Capriccio begins with a fanfare, the signal of the Italian cavalry which Tchaikovsky heard every evening in Rome, and develops into a colourful display of pictures from Italy, ranging from melancholic pride to exuberant joy and ending in a wild Neapolitan tarantella. One of the most versatile composers of the nineteenth century was Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev (1837-1910), born in Nizhny-Novgorod the son of a pianist. Having studied science, he became famous not only as a composer but also as a pianist, conductor, founder and director of the Free Music School in St Petersburg, director of music to the Imperial Chapel and as initiator and leader of the famous "Mighty Handful", a group of composers whose aim was to explore and strengthen Russian roots in contemporary music. Three journeys took Balakirev to the Caucasus where he carried out research into the local folk-music. During one of his trips he conceived his work Tamara, formerly named Lesginka after the Caucasian dance. It was Mikhail Lermontov's poem Tamara that inspired Balakirev to write his composition of the same name, which is rooted in the Caucasian folk-tunes like his most famous work Islamey. "Walking around Pyatygorsk I feel Lermontov's spirit", he writes to his friend Stasov. "I love the same nature as Lermontov - it makes the same strong impression on me." Lermontov's poem tells about the "Queen" Tamara living in a tower upon the rocks beside the River Terek high above the Daryal Gorge. "Like an angel, so beautiful and captivating; she is like a devil, so treacherous and wild." Tamara seduces the travellers into a nocturnal orgy and finally kills them. What remains is the memory of Tamara's promise of a neverending love: "And so gentle is the parting / So sweet the voice that calls above / All the joys of tryst seem promised / All the ecstasies of love." Balakirev worked fifteen years on Tamara and dedicated it to Franz Liszt who thanked him in a letter of 21 October 1884: "My warm feelings of admiration toward your works are well-known. When my students wish to make me happy, they play your compositions and those of your courageous friends to me. [...] In this Russian phalanx I greet from all my heart the talented masters of a rare vital energy: they do not suffer from any lack of ideas [...]." Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov became famous at the age of sixteen when his First Symphony was performed under Mily Balakirev. Born in St Petersburg in 1865, he was first taught by his mother before he continued his studies with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. The success of his First Symphony proved crucial for his career. He made the acquaintance of the merchant and patron Belyayev, who gave him considerable support and published his compositions. The variety of his work, which contains almost all genres, shows a cosmopolitan attitude: effortlessly, Glazunov combines Russian with western European music traditions. Appointed professor at St Petersburg Conservatory in 1899, he became its director in 1905. His most famous student there was Dmitry Shostakovich. After extended concert tours as a conductor, Glazunov settled in 1932 in Paris, where he died in 1936. "Frightening is the forest at night when the trees take the forms of monsters, and mysterious sounds fill the air." This is the beginning of the programme preceding Glazunov's fantasy The Forest, composed between 1882 and 1887. Terrifying mythical creatures gather at midnight for their carouses and orgiastic dance. The singing of nymphs, the clumsy movements of a giant, a hunt and finally the song of the shepherd and the wakening of the birds at dawn are depicted in the music. To his friend, the critic Vladimir Stasov, to whom the work is dedicated, Glazunov wrote on 8 November 1882: "On Saturday, I played the Forest to Mily Alexeyevich [Balakirev]. He [...] began to reprimand me, saying that the piece lacked logic... The nymphs did not please him. The hunt he harshly criticized. [...] Nevertheless, I am not a bit depressed as Balakirev's first opinion on no matter what soon begins to fade [...]." Balakirev later on indeed changed his mind. Unlike The Forest, Glazunov's fantasy The Sea was written in 1889/90 under the influence of Richard Wagner to whom it is dedicated. "As to myself, I am terribly depressed", Glazunov told his friend Kruglikov on 1 April 1889. "The only thing comforting me is my composition The Sea which I intend to write with some influence by Wagner whom I love as I love a woman [...]." One year later, he wrote to Tchaikovsky: "The Sea seems to have become quite powerful [...]." Like The Forest, the score of The Sea contains a programme: "[...] Bright sun shone in the sky, the sea was calm, suddenly a raging whistling gust of wind arose, followed by another. The sky grew dark, the sea became agitated. The elements launched into a struggle, relentless, with great roaring. A violent storm burst. But the tempest passed away, the sea became calm again. The sun shone anew over the calm surface of the water. [...]". Julia Severus
Facts
Item number 8557717
Barcode 747313271726
Release date 12/07/2006
Category Chamber | Classical Music
Label Naxos Limited Edition
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Composers Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev
Orchestras Aurora Quartett
Disc: 1
Capriccio italien, Op. 45 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
1 Capriccio italien, Op. 45 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
Tamara (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
2 Tamara (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
Les (The Forest), Op. 19 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
3 Les (The Forest), Op. 19 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
More (The Sea), Op. 28 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
4 More (The Sea), Op. 28 (arr. 2 pianos/8 hands)
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