WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Polonaise, Op. 16
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9808
Another Romantic Russian symphony crawls out of the birch wood to enjoy the more than competent attentions of Sinaisky and the BBC Philharmonic. As David Brown explains in a lively booklet note, Lyapunov occupies a drowsy halfway house between the mighty handful – above all Balakirev and Borodin, whose styles he easily imitates – and the later, surer-footed inspirations of Glazunov, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. Nothing in the First Symphony leaps out as especially memorable, but the manner is warmly nationalistic, the themes neatly tied together – sometimes a little over-emphatically – and occasionally imaginatively presented, as in the light tendrils which weave around the opening movement’s exotic second subject. Sinaisky is totally at his ease, drawing amiable solos from woodwind and first horn especially.
Slightly more soporific is the compact Piano Concerto heard here; whereas its inescapable model, the Liszt Second Concerto, is a warm-blooded mammal, Lyapunov’s specimen comes across as a glossy invertebrate. Still, Sinaisky elicits lovable phrasing from the BBC Philharmonic strings at the start and Howard Shelley does the transcendental solos proud. The Polonaise at the end of the disc effortlessly combines elegance and pomp. Yet another testament, then, to the right team for Chandos to use in its extensive Russian repertoire. David Nice