Glinka: Piano works (complete); Grand Sextet in E flat

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LABELS: EuropeArt
WORKS: Piano works (complete); Grand Sextet in E flat
PERFORMER: Ludmila Berlinskaia (piano), Grigori Kovalevski (double bass); Borodin Quartet
Glinka’s piano works are essentially miniatures, though they cover quite a wide range – tiny polkas, mazurkas, waltzes, variations on a Russian folksong, a couple of nocturnes, a reminiscence of Ruslan and Ludmila, a fugue. In one sense they’re little more than salon pieces, but so wonderfully played here that Ludmila Berlinskaia makes you listen to every phrase as if it were fresh-minted and feel, for instance, that the longest piece, a five-minute Barcarolle, is worthy of Chopin. She invests everything with such delicacy and intensity of feeling, backed by immaculate phrasing, pedalling and sense of colour, that you can hear that in one way these pieces are indeed unlike anything that came before them and mark a new beginning: the very start of Russian piano music. Berlinskaia is joined by the Borodin Quartet and bassist Grigori Kovalevski for an equally convincing account of Glinka’s Grand Sextet of 1832 (the start of Russian chamber music?). Its clear architecture, sturdy rhythms and lyricism evoke by no means unjustified comparisons with Schubert. The ensemble is nicely balanced. Altogether a quietly revelatory recording, for the bicentenary of Glinka’s birth, showing the composer not as operatic nationalist but as post-Classical master and pioneer. Warmly recommended. Calum MacDonald