GLINKA; TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Music for Four Hands
Is there a more omnivorous pianist on the planet than Cyprien Katsaris? Few equal the breadth and quantity of his repertoire. Even fewer issue their recordings on their own label. Katsaris is in love with – and is particularly adept at playing – 19th-century repertoire (Alkan, he once told me, is one of the few composers of the period that does not attract him).
Here, in the company of Alexander Ghindin, he offers a typically unexpected programme of Glinka’s music arranged for four hands. Kamarinskaya (‘Fantaisie sur deux airs russes pour orchestre’) – the first orchestral work based entirely on Russian folksong – and the Capriccio sur des thèmes russes (composed in 1834 but not published until 1904) were obvious candidates for the attention of Mily Balakirev, the former piece having a profound influence on the succeeding generation of Russian composers.
These are played (and recorded) superbly well, but what really captured my attention was the performance of the Valse-fantaisie arranged by Sergey Lyapunov, which has exactly the same rhythmic verve and suavity as the famous 1929 recording of the waltz from Arensky’s Suite for two pianos by Harold Bauer and Ossip Gabrilowitsch.
After three brief but charming Glinka trifles, Katsaris and Ghindin play the entire sequence of Fifty Russian Folksongs as harmonised by Tchaikovsky at the request of the publisher Jurgenson (they appeared in 1869). The shortest lasts just 16 seconds, the longest 1'50". Not a listening experience with which one can become deeply involved, but quite fascinating to hear themes subsequently used in other works: for example ‘Vanya was sitting on the divan’ is the Andante from Tchaikovsky’s First String Quartet; No 48 is the 1812 Overture; Nos 28 and 42 can be heard in the finale of the Serenade for Strings.
Katsaris and Ghindin give every impression of two like-minded souls sharing their affection for this music with an intimate gathering of their friends. Piano buffs need not hesitate.