Notes and Editorial Reviews
6 Esquisses, “Près de la mer,”
Adam Neiman (pn)
NAXOS 8.572233 (63:37)
Rimsky-Korsakov, writing in his
Chronicles of My Musical Life
, said that he believed his student
Anton Arensky “will soon be forgotten.” Apart from a few compositions that are still performed today, among them the Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, the D-Minor Piano Trio, and the suites for two pianos, most of Arensky’s works have suffered just that fate. Happily, some of these lesser-known works are being explored again, notably here, and in a field in which Arensky spent a good deal of his attention, the piano music.
All of the works on the present recital are similar in that they are all less than five minutes in length. If there is one strong point to Arensky’s compositional skills, it is that he is able to use this characteristic to his advantage to create mood quickly and effectively. Once Arensky has chosen the basic mood of the piece, there is a fundamental continuity of mood that exists until the end. But though many of the lyrical pieces make pleasant listening, most of the melodic material is forgettable. That said, there are beautifully conceived moments, in which Arensky’s attention to details of figuration brings much interest to the pieces. One such moment can be found in the lyrical D-Major Etude of op. 74, with its static sense of waterfall-like arpeggiations. The grand dotted rhythms of the French overture-like prelude (minus the fugue) in the op. 53 set is yet another. Adam Neiman is a good advocate for much of this repertoire, as he possesses the technical prowess necessary to play these pieces, and a feeling for tonal shading and breath. The lighter pieces (the Scherzo, also in the op. 53 set, for example) suffer perhaps a bit from heavy-handedness, but not so much as to disturb the generally playful character that he brings to the music.
This is not essential listening, but it is enlightening to hear a composition every once in a while that reminds one of the next generation of Russian composers, in particular Arensky’s own students—both Rachmaninoff and Scriabin being among them. Recorded in excellent sound, on a Fazioli grand piano, Neiman makes this music sound as good as any I’ve heard. The repertoire is specialized but the price is right. Recommended for those, then, who particularly like Russian music, or who want to delve deeper into their understanding of the roots of 20th-century Russian music.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
Works on This Recording
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