WORKS: 12 études d’exécution transcendante, Op. 11
PERFORMER: Louis Kentner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: APR 5620
Perhaps inevitably, Lyapunov, the pupil of both Tchaikovsky and Balakirev, has been overshadowed by the more searching muses of his contemporaries, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. And yet there are times in his 12 Transcendental Studies when this situation seems a touch unjust. Dedicated to the ‘revered memory’ of Liszt, the Études clearly owe much to this founding father of Romantic virtuosity, but the tribute is often to be heard more in the pianistic process than the musical content. The Third Étude, an evocation of distant bells, at times brings to mind Debussy and the ‘Chant épique’ is the very soul of Russianness. The concluding étude of the set is an élégie in memory of Liszt which, while quoting the master, develops with originality to a stirring climax.
Kentner’s playing of these works is nothing short of breathtaking. There are two recordings of the opening ‘Berceuse’, the first from 1939, the second with the remainder of the Etudes from 1949. In the intervening period, Kentner’s reading has become both more fluent and urgent. The recordings were made by Walter Legge, and despite a hiss to remind us of their vintage credentials, the piano sound has impressive range and ambience. Jan Smaczny