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Monday, January 6, 2014

Sergei Lyapunov, Piano Music, Margarita Glebov

Sergei Lyapunov (sometimes transliterated as Liapunov) (1859-1924) had a fruitful career as teacher, composer and pianist, though it has been said that in the latter he was hindered somewhat by his lack of showmanship. Compared to Mussorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov he is not well-known in the West, but he was much more than merely a member of the Russian Nationalist school. His music at its best has beauty, passion and a Russian sensibility that in the right hands works magic. He is worthwhile in his own right.

The right hands surely are there with pianist Margarita Glebov and her recording of selected Lyapunov compositions, Piano Music (Toccota Classics 0218). From his studies with pianist Karl Klindworth Lyapunov fell under the spell of the Liztian virtuoso style and that can be said to be an important component of his piano music. But Lyapunov's inventive gift and feel for his Russian roots give his piano music a distinct character and so a musical direction altogether different than the Western European followers of the pianistic Prometheus.

The music on the anthology covers a broad swath of Lyapunov's output, from the Opus One of "Three Pieces" to the late, Opus 65 "Sonatina". There are a number of first recordings in the mix.

The performances by Ms. Glebov go a long way in convincing my ears that Lyapunov was a composer for the piano of real depth and character. Margarita manages to convey the emotional vibrancy of his music without sacrificing musical clarity. The notes are never short-changed for grandstanding affect. Her beautiful phrasing, touch and articulate attack put her in the ranks of the top pianists, surely. And it all happens to be ideally suited for this music.

If you like that minor-key robust beauty of Russian music especially, you will gravitate to the piano music played so well here. In any event this anthology is a delight. Margarita Glebov will make you a believer--in Lyapunov, in her.

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