Balakirev: Capriccio in D; Waltz No. 7 in G sharp minor; Gondellied; Rêverie

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COMPOSERS: Balakirev
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Capriccio in D; Waltz No. 7 in G sharp minor; Gondellied; Rêverie
PERFORMER: Nicholas Walker (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1048
Balakirev was the leader of the ‘Mighty Handful’, the little group of Russian composers who, in the 1860s, set out to establish an identifiably national style of music, and who also included Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui. This second volume of his piano music reveals many aspects of his style – his keen sense of orchestral colour, which spilled over into his keyboard writing and reached a high point in the Mazurka No. 1; his seemingly effortless combining of melodies, all with a lyrical feel anda valid life of their own (in the same Mazurka); his predilection for the salon (Valse-impromptu); his flair for constructing substantial pieces from simple dance forms (Waltz No. 7). He even manages to suggest castanets in the Caprice brillant on the Jota aragonesa. His keyboard transcription of Glinka’s song ‘Ne parle pas’ is more convincing than the original, and his solo version of the Romance from Chopin’s First Piano Concerto almost justifies his belief that the orchestra was unnecessary.

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Walker is not only clearly committed to Balakirev’s music. He has every ounce of the considerable virtuosity most of it requires, and the musicianship and temperament to put it across. This really is a most enjoyable disc. Wadham Sutton