These little gems sparkle with light and are simply delightful.
TCHAIKOVSKY 18 Piano Pieces, op. 72 • Konstantin Shamway (pn) • NAXOS 8.572225 (67:09)
Konstantin Shamway, a young Russian winner of competitions in Australia and Germany, makes his recording debut here with Tchaikovsky’s last work for piano, a sizeable butRead more little-known group of piano pieces that are almost never played as a complete set. Shamway’s understanding of the rhythmic flexibility required in Tchaikovsky’s style, his good taste in not taking it too far, and his truly impressive technique result in joyful music-making from the first phrase of the jaunty opening Impromptu to the final “Scène dansante.”
Op. 72, as the booklet notes state, “goes far beyond the range of the usual sets of piano pieces generally designed for the amateur market,” but was not planned as a cycle. Tchaikovsky originally intended to publish op. 72 in three groups of six pieces, which is more or less the perfect amount to experience at one hearing. (As much as I love the music from The Nutcracker, I, and I suspect most people, would rather listen to the suite than the complete ballet at one stretch. Incidentally, the op. 72 pieces would make a sensational ballet.)
Each piece is dedicated to a different colleague, pupil, or friend, and Tchaikovsky gave them an order that offers nice contrasts between tempos and moods. It’s a more extroverted collection, with far more humor and variety than the familiar Seasons (or more properly The Months), op. 37a. The scintillating Scherzo-Fantasy is op. 72’s high point of bravura, and the Berceuse and “Chant élégiaque” are expansive, lyric effusions. The pieces in the manner of Chopin and Schumann aren’t as uncanny as Schumann’s Chopin and Paganini impersonations in Carnaval, but they are a lot of fun.
There are few recordings of the complete op. 72, but Shamway’s is in competition with a live performance by Mikhail Pletnev, a dazzling player and Tchaikovsky specialist whose interpretations demand attention, but seem to me, in this case, overly mannered. The unhackneyed repertoire and the charm, color, and brilliance of Shamway’s playing make this one of the most enjoyable piano discs that I’ve heard in a long time.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
When you read of the life of Tchaikovsky, his disappointments, his heartbreaks, his feelings of torment caused by his homosexuality and the periods of utter despair he experienced as a result, it is all the more amazing that he could produce music of such beauty. This same music is often happy, sunny and joyful in temperament, and with such everlasting appeal. It’s all the more remarkable that he did so just six months before his unexpected death which some still believe was at his own hand due to an impending homosexual scandal rather than the cholera caused by drinking undistilled water. That these short pieces are beautiful cannot be disputed – from the very first note Tchaikovsky transports you into another world with such consummate skill you are left in no doubt that you are in the hands of a genius. He writes with such breathtaking ease you are simply left to marvel at it. Each of these eighteen pieces was dedicated to a friend or associate, from the sister of a fellow-student to a young pianist of whom Tchaikovsky was particularly fond. Each is a miniature masterpiece and they all punch well above their weight. From lullabies to mazurkas, from waltzes to meditations, these little gems sparkle with light and are simply delightful. Playing them here is a young Russian pianist Konstantin Shamray, born in Novosibirsk in 1985, who has been winning prizes since the late 1990s, most sensationally in Sydney in 2008 where he swept the board with no fewer than six special prizes. The description of him as having “dynamite in his fingers” is aptly deserved. Another disc he recorded at the Ruhr Piano Festival of Schumann, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Liszt on the CA-vi music label will certainly be worth seeking out if this disc is anything to go by. This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc with well written and documented notes by Keith Anderson giving a background to each piece.
Morceaux (18) for Piano, Op. 72by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Konstantin Shamray (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1893; Russia
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 1. Impromptu
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 2. Berceuse
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 3. Tendres reproches
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 4. Danse caracteristique
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 5. Meditation
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 6. Mazurka pour danser
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 7. Polacca de concert
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 8. Dialogue
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 9. Un poco di Schumann
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 10. Scherzo-fantaisie
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 11. Valse bluette
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 12. L'espiegle
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 13. Echo rustique
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 14. Chant elegiaque
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 15. Un poco di Chopin
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 16. Valse a cinq temps
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 17. Passe lointain
18 Morceaux, Op. 72: No. 18. Scene dansante: invitation au trepak
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Musical GemstonesAugust 12, 2012By bess holloway (Boulder, CO)See All My Reviews"The 18 short pieces on this recording were unfamiliar to me. In the supremely gifted hands of Russian pianist Konstantin Shamray they sparkle brilliantly. This disc will quickly rise to the top of your playlist!"Report Abuse
Transparent playingAugust 5, 2012By Paul A. (Morton Grove, IL)See All My Reviews"I was not familiar with Shamray and look forward to hearing more from this artist. I prefer this recording over the Ashkenazy. Shamray's playing is transparent, as if he were playing Mozart, yet projects a soulful and assured reading of these 18 pieces."Report Abuse
Beautiful TchaikowskyJuly 31, 2012By Clifton B. (Baltimore, MD)See All My Reviews"A CD of these piano works is all too rare. Here they are beautifully played. Sit back with some wine and listen to some wonderful piano works."Report Abuse