WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 5; Two Poems; Three Études; Five Preludes
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66926
Hands up, those of you who have heard of Nikolai Roslavets. Well, not to worry. He lived from 1881 to 1944, espoused the avant-gardism of Schoenberg and Berg (which he stumbled on independently), explored new sound material, devised ‘synthetic’ chords, and duly fell foul of the Soviet regime. In retrospect, one wonders why. There’s nothing here to frighten the horses. Scriabin is an obvious influence, in language and in thinking, and the music, virtuosic for the performer, holds no longueurs to weary the listener. Hamelin is one of today’s most inspired pianists, quite unfazed by the most savage technical demands and unfailingly sound in interpretation.
Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) also suffered harassment from the Soviet state and in 1922 he moved to Vienna. His music here is a mixture of post-Romantic miniatures, echoing Chopin and Liszt, and programmatic pieces in an attractive salon style, some based on stories by Hans Andersen. And who better to play it than Stephen Coombs? He has already recorded Bortkiewicz’s First Piano Concerto and shown a broader affinity for the Russian school with some stunning CDs of Glazunov (all on Hyperion). The booklet notes, by Coombs himself, could not be more informative, nor more engagingly written. Wadham Sutton