Piano Concerto in F minor, Op.2/Arensky

January 13, 2011

 

There are but a small handful of works available from this somewhat unknown composer who studied under Balakirev of the Mighty Five, and then Tchaikovsky. Rimsky-Korsakov commented in his autobiography My Musical Life that Anton “will soon be forgotten” and this statement has certainly come to pass. Yet this F minor Piano Concerto written in 1883 when he was but 22 is a wonderful composition that is as exciting as many of the “standard repertoire” of orchestras today. Yet fate has relegated this fine composer into obscurity.

 

The Piano Concerto in F Minor, Op.2 is a three movement 26 minute concerto that offers the listener different styles making it a unique sounding work but one can hear Liszt, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.  It opens with a bold majestic Lisztian style with a  very Russian melody introduced by the brass.  The melody quickly shifts to the piano as it offers some complex playing while developing the theme. It is quite the grandiose and majestic movement offering arpeggio passages while the theme is being developed. The second movement, the andante offers the melody from the brass as the piano complements the orchestra with playing that is delicate and moving  yet working together in such a way that they are one.  The third movement is delicate yet lively with an easy on the ear melody. If you’re familiar with the Grieg Piano Concerto it sounds like it is going to become that very piece. The orchestra plays a significant role and complements the rather quick yet delicate playing of the piano. This reviewer certainly welcomes this work to my collection. Scherbakov and the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Yablonsky appear to be in top form and quite comfortable. The piano is quite crisp and well recorded as well as Scherbakov being right at home with this. I prefer the playing of Scherbakov over the Coombs recording on Hyperion CDA66624. Konstantin seems to have a better feel for the material and I like the Naxos engineering as well as the attacking style in this particular case. The piano has a crispy sound that I approve of. The advantage of the Coombs recording is the Bortkiewicz recording another obscure work that has merit to it.

 

Fantasia on Russian folksongs, Op. 48 takes two very Russian melodies, which are folksongs and nicely develops both of them in a showcase style. The folksongs came from a collection put together by Ryabinin which Arensky had heard in a recital several years earlier. One could call this work schmaltzy with hints of a Rachmaninoff sound but it is nice however you choose to label it.

 

To the Memory of Suvorov is a typical sounding march that could have been written for any number of events but it becomes a pretty little folk melody again quite Russian in flavor before it returns to the opening majestic theme.

 

Symphonic Scherzo has no opus number and one can only surmise that it came early on in Arensky’s composing career. It has been suggested by David Truslove that it could be an abandoned attempt at a symphony. This listener can hear the teaching of Rimsky-Korsakov in the orchestration as Arensky uses all sections of the orchestra to good advantage. I like the melody and the attempt at exploring it. Recommended.

 

Naxos #8570526

 
Track Listing:

 

Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 2

1….  I. Allegro Maestoso – 00:11:53

2…. II. Andante con moto – 00:07:08

3….  III. Scherzo-Finale: Allegro molto – 00:07:13

4…. Ryabinin Fantasia on 2 Russian Folksongs, Op. 48 – 00:08:34

5…. Pamyati Suvorova (To the Memory of Suvorov) – 00:04:33

6…. Symphonic Scherzo – 00:09:45

Total Time is 49:39

 

 

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