Monday, February 2, 2015

Anatole Liadov, Piano Works, Yoko Kikuchi

Russian composer Anatole Liadov (1855-1914) was one of those important links between the high romanticism of Tchaikovsky and the budding modernism of the new generation of composers. Prokofiev was his student, which gives you an idea. Yet his output of works produced no certifiable masterpieces. He seemed content in his pivotal teaching role. But of what he did produce, the solo piano works stand out.

Yoko Kikuchi gives us a well-chosen sampling of this on her album Piano Works (Pavane 7505). They are mostly miniatures in a highly lyrical style, as a sort of Russian Grieg, if you will. There are 14 of these, plus two longer sets of variations, "sur un theme populaire polonais op. 51" and "sur un theme de Glinka op. 35."

There are no tossed off, filler works here. Virtually all are inventive beauties that soar beyond romantic sentiment into an almost impressionist lucidity.

Yoko Kikuchi plays these pieces like she was born to them. There is a tender sort of playfulness and just the right rubato when called for, all played with a wonderful touch.

Why have I never heard this music, all of it? I am sure there were recordings put out (I do think I have LPs with a few pieces here and there) but I missed anything as seminal as this collection. And I do think its true to say that the music was waiting for a Yoko Kikuchi to come along and do it full justice. She is marvelous. I cannot imagine a more sympathetic interpretation. It makes Liadov not just one of the in-between Russian composers, but for these works a substantial one.

These performances will warm you inside. All Russophiles will celebrate the recording I imagine. And those who love lyricism will naturally respond as well. Smashing!

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