Glinka: Four Musical Essays; Three Fugues; Valse-fantaisie in B minor

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WORKS: Four Musical Essays; Three Fugues; Valse-fantaisie in B minor
PERFORMER: Victor Ryabchikov (piano)
The self-imposed and principal mission of the Russian pianist Victor Ryabchikov is to return Glinka’s piano music to the concert repertoire. This disc is just the first volume of a projected series intended to make all of it available on CD. It will win many friends for both Ryabchikov and a composer who is known more through repute – every student learns that he was the father of Russian music – than through first-hand knowledge of any of his music other than the operas Ruslan and Ludmila and A Life for the Tsar. Some of the titles here remind one of Chopin. A Nocturne in E flat opens the disc, and one in F minor, poignantly titled ‘La séparation’, comes later. There’s also a Valse-fantaisie, a Barcarolle, and a Souvenir d’une mazurka, the last two included in a set of Four Musical Essays composed in 1847 and subtitled ‘A Greeting to my Native Land’ by the much-travelled Glinka’s publisher. The Polish composer’s influence is certainly strongly felt in matters of texture, though Glinka’s melodic lines are distinctly less elaborate, his harmonies less piquant. The Essays also include an utterly charming set of variations on the Scottish song ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, and a wonderful, Lisztian Prière (lasting ten minutes), both of which testify to Glinka’s natural eclecticism. To all these works Ryabchikov brings a highly sensitised touch and poetic sensibility. The sound he makes is unfailingly beautiful, and he is able to conjure a sense of poignancy and space even in three rather odd fugues. Stephen Pettitt