BALAKIREV Piano Music Vol 5

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Instrumental

Label: Grand Piano

Media Format: CD or Download

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: GP811

GP811. BALAKIREV Piano Music Vol 5 (Nicholas Walker)

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Nicholas Walker has been toiling away virtually unnoticed in the Balakirev vineyard for the past few decades. Many will recall the two volumes from the late 1990s for ASV, intended as a complete survey of all the solo works. That never came to fruition due to the label’s demise. Operating under the radar once more, Walker has re embarked on this same mission and has now reached Vol 5.

This one is particularly fascinating for transcription junkies, beginning with the spectacular (and spectacularly difficult) Reminiscences on Glinka’s A Life for the Czar, famous from Earl Wild’s 1969 recording (on the flip side of his Scharwenka B flat minor Concerto LP – RCA, 2/70). Walker is quite his equal – and that is saying something – and is also beautifully recorded in a realistic, sympathetic acoustic (St Silas, Kentish Town, with producer Jeremy Hayes and engineer Ben Connellan). Indeed, Walker’s playing throughout this absorbing disc is a pleasure to hear, with a sophisticated tonal palette and eschewing any superficial virtuosity: ‘bravura with integrity’ is how I would describe it. Why don’t we hear more of him?

The transcription of the Romanza from Chopin’s E minor Concerto (another Wild favourite) ingeniously melds the piano part with the bassoon solos. This precedes the Impromptu (after Chopin’s Preludes), in which the E flat minor and B major Preludes are merged into a single original composition, and is followed by the first recording of Balakirev’s cadenza to Chopin’s Scherzo No 2. Chopin’s original text is familiar enough; Liszt’s Mazurka brillante is not, so Walker plays the piece through, then repeats it with Balakirev’s coda. Then come perhaps the most unexpected works: transcriptions of two movements from a couple of Beethoven string quartets. Three original works round off the programme, the most striking of which is the Tarantella (1901), vigorous, relentless, demanding, with glimpses of figures from Tamara and Islamey. Last of all is Balakirev’s earliest surviving piece, a Chopinesque Polonaise. Nicholas Walker’s own excellent booklet is the cherry on the top.

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