Glinka: French Quadrille in D; Variations on a theme from Anna Bolena; Variations on a Scottish theme in F; Variations on The Nightingale

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COMPOSERS: Glinka
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: French Quadrille in D; Variations on a theme from Anna Bolena; Variations on a Scottish theme in F; Variations on The Nightingale
PERFORMER: Evgeny Soifertis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84394
Franz Liszt described Glinka as the ‘patriarch and prophet of music in Russia’, but you’d be hard put to find even the smallest trace of Russianness in this selection of Glinka’s piano music. Not that that matters – the music may not be Russian, but it has plenty of individuality and charm, even when it wears its influences on its sleeve (which is most of the time). The music falls into three kinds. There are gay, extrovert dance movements, usually in waltz time. Then there are the variation sets, based often on a shapely aria from the Italian opera composers Glinka so admired, and decked out with brilliant passagework derived from Weber. And there are the character pieces, like the drooping Nocturne called ‘La séparation’, written for his sister (where, at the close of the main melody, you get a rare foretaste of Tchaikovsky’s rich melancholy). These reveal Glinka’s enthusiasm for the nocturnes of John Field, the Irish composer who settled in Russia. The pieces have the virtues and limitations of salon music, and they need a pianist who respects those limits. Fortunately Soifertis’s performances hit exactly the right note, moving with aristocratic ease and tact between delicate pathos, brilliance, and gay high spirits. The recorded sound is excellent – clear without being too close. Ivan Hewett

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