One of the nice things about Naxos is they never seem to be afraid to take a chance on someone who is not been very well recorded. Such is the case with Sergey Lyapunov a composer whose recordings premiered in the 1890’s and early 20th century, a time of unrest in the Soviet Union as well as the emergence of a young Rachmaninoff whose works have proven far more popular over the years.

Lyapunov attended the Moscow Conservatory where he was a pupil of Taneyev as well as Tchaikovsky in 1878. In 1885 he became associated with Mily Balakirev the leader of the mighty five and as a result of this relationship he became isolated from the newer up and coming composers. Perhaps this is why other composers of the time became more popular? In fact it was Sergey who completed the last movement of Balakirev’s Piano Concerto in E flat major in 1910. By that time he had achieved a high level of maturity and was able to take on this task both from a technical standpoint and a knowledge of Balakirev.

Written in 1907 and performed by Lyapunov in 1909 the work is a marvelous example of something truly special but virtually unknown to classical listeners. Research on my part found only two previous recordings of this work from Hamish on Hyperion and Ponti on Vox. The work begins with a rhapsody from the English Horn very serene with a bit of sadness, an answer from the flute, and then the piano takes over. Slowly at first it builds into something quite showy and powerful. A second theme begins with the piano and it is here where it is allowed to fully explore with a full attack and fury. A third theme follows quite Russian in nature, a dance where the orchestra and piano become one and while the piano is still featured the orchestra never takes a back seat. This work is one where the orchestra and piano complement one another and work together. There are not long periods of time where the piano is front and center and the orchestra is quiet. There is plenty of thematic material and that showy Lizst style yet the orchestra plays an important part in the work creating his sound with wonderful melodies. If you listen carefully you can hear a small Tchaikovsky influence in the work, particularly in a couple of phrases. The ending is very grand and allows us to know this is definitely a piano piece. This is a work that should bear further exploring on your part and would be a nice addition to your material. Recommended.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 4

1.                 Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat minor, Op. 4 00:22:16

Piano Concerto No. 2 in E major, Op. 38

2.                 Piano Concerto No. 2 in E major, Op. 38 00:19:27

Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, Op. 28

3.                 Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, Op. 28 00:16:35

Total Playing Time: 00:58:18

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