Sunday, November 30, 2014

Today's Birthday #2 - Sergei Lyapunov - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 - Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes - BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins, Hamish Milne, Piano

I wish I could get to all the birthdays today but there's many, thus onto "the list" of (recent) birthdays they shall go, as soon-to-be-posted belated bday posts. I still haven't gotten around to some major ones like Benjamin Britten, Obrecht, Meredith Monk (one of my absolute favorites..), Joaquin Rodrigo, Krzysztof Penderecki, Manuel de Falla, Andre Caplet...and others...I feel tired just thinking of it!

Sergei Lyapunov was born today November 30, 1859 and died in 1924 (I'm usually very good with exact dates but I confess I don't recall off-hand the month or day he passed). Lyapunov is one of Russian music's more puzzling figures. A pupil of Taneyev and Tchaikovsky in Moscow, he eventually gravitated towards the nationalist circles around Balakirev in St Petersburg.

Balakirev who at the time was the only professional musician in the group, would remain an important influence on Lyapunov. Despite this, the young composer, having been exposed to the rigors of conservatory schooling, found the others’ dilettantism distasteful and ultimately limiting; thus, he fell in with the so-called 'Belyayev crowd', a society of Russian musicians who met in St. Petersburg between 1885 and 1908, and whose members included Glazunov, Liadov, and Rimsky-Korsakov. The latter distanced himself from the Mighty Five after he became professor of harmony, composition, and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Like the Mighty Five, the Belyayev composers also believed in cultivating a native Russian music, but they differed by embracing the requirement for a Western-styled academic education and by being more receptive to the Western-oriented cosmopolitan model of Tchaikovsky. These ideas were largely disseminated by Rimsky-Korsakov through his many students, including Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Respighi.

For Lyapunov, the Belyayev philosophy presented the best of both worlds: music of a Russian bent wedded to a solid grounding in Western harmonic and contrapuntal practices. In a way, Lyapunov, along with Alexander Kopylov (1854–1911), another Belyayev member, Moszkowski (1859–1925), and Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859–1935), were the link between Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov on one side, and the three G's - Gretchaninov, Glazunov, and Glière - and Rachmaninov on the other. 

The Piano concertos are both lush, lovely creations, with No.1 being mostly unknown (this was it's premiere recording) however with more recordings such as the Naxos disc (which, incidentally has an identical program to this Hyperion disc) surfacing it seems Lyapunov's concertos are getting more visibility in general.

The "Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes" is extremely complimentary to the two concertos on the disc, again romantic and full of might feel slightly "lushed-out" by the end of the disc but imo with the occasional listen, it's still worth it.