Monday, 9 January 2017

The Joy of Russian Piano Music - At least sometimes

I'm kicking off my classical music listening this year with some Russian piano music from last century. I started with Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas 2 and 9 performed by Ilya Yakushev in a new recording only released this year. You can find it on Spotify here.

They had what I consider Prokofiev's typical joy, with the appropriate jarring qualities for such a figure. Both sonatas were full of life and rollicked along under Yakushev's expert fingers. Prokofiev may knock you from your comfortable listening position to sit up and take notice, but he certainly never bores you.

Following that I went for some Shostakovich and found Volume 2 of the complete music for piano duo or duet. First up on the album the piano duet version of his Piano Concerto No 2. This was an upbeat piece for Shostakovich, also full of life and not without its listening challenges, but it is much smoother than Prokofiev's works. The second piece is an arrangement of Shostakovich's Symphony No 15 for piano duet. It's as monumental as that suggests, with intricate sections of what must be highly fiddly finger work and grand moments of high playing. And of course some of Shostakovich's humour comes through as the opening movement has the galop from Rossini's William Tell Overture as a recurrent theme. The second movement throws a much darker mood out, reminding us of the difficulties both these composers faced in their lives. The pianists on the recording are Min Kyong Kim and Hyung Jin Moon, and they are faultless in both the virtuosity and the emotion of the works. You can find that one on Spotify here.

After my long absence I hope to present little blogs like this more often this year, but there are no promises. Either way, remember to keep exploring the wonderful world of music as much as possible.

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