Liadov: Variations on a Polish Folk Theme; Variations on a Theme by Glinka; Marionettes; Preludes, Op. 36; Pieces, Opp. 11, 24, 57 & 64

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COMPOSERS: Liadov
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Variations on a Polish Folk Theme; Variations on a Theme by Glinka; Marionettes; Preludes, Op. 36; Pieces, Opp. 11, 24, 57 & 64
PERFORMER: Stephen Coombs (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66986
Stephen Coombs is a specialist in Russian music and has recorded all Glazunov’s solo piano works for Hyperion. They might have done better by him on this disc, for the recorded sound is like an empty living room, depriving the piano of all magic and glamour. Liadov’s music needs both, though it is neither extravagant nor flashy. Apart from the two sets of variations, which are his most substantial piano works, the pieces are short and of modest expressive scope. The Barcarolle is in the same key as Chopin’s but doesn’t aspire to its grandeur, staying instead within a mood of easygoing sentimentality. Briefly, in the four Op. 64 Pieces, Liadov explored the strange new territory of his junior, Scriabin, but his style elsewhere remained conservatively charming, well within the salon tradition of the late 19th century. He’s most memorable in playful novelties like Marionettes and A Musical Snuffbox, which make effective encores, and perhaps he’s destined to be remembered, if at all, as a postscript. The playing is fine, but not exquisite enough to make you sit up and take notice of unremarkable music. Adrian Jack

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