Search - Mily Balakirev, Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven :: Balakirev: Piano Music (Complete) [Box Set]

Balakirev: Piano Music (Complete) [Box Set]
Mily Balakirev, Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven
Balakirev: Piano Music (Complete) [Box Set]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #6


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CD Reviews

Wonderful, Original Russian Music!...(reissue of ASIN: B0009
Sébastien Melmoth | Hôtel d'Alsace, PARIS | 11/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

This set is a reissue of ASIN: B0009OALKQ.

By now it seems passé to point out that Balakirev was a member of the Great Russian Five (Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Mussorgsky); still, it's a point to remember that these--along with Glinka and Tchaikowsky--virtually founded Russian Romantic music, laying the foundation for those that followed (Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Glazunov, Taneyev, et alii). ( Scriabin: Complete Piano Sonatas , Scriabin: Complete Symphonies , Glazunov: String Quartets 3 & 5 Vol. 1 , Taneyev: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3 , Taneyev: Chamber Music )

Balakirev was a quintessentially Russian character--virtually out of Dostoyevsky: he was a devoted follower of Eastern Orthodox Christianity--indeed, he was something of a Tolstoyian mystic, and Russia was never short of those! ( The Rasputin File )

Balakirev's music is largely Chopinesque (whom he regarded as a Russian composer since Poland was occupied by Russia), featuring large waltzes, nocturnes, etc. And of course his oeuvre includes significant experiments in eastern-European Orientalism.

It's difficult to imagine anyone doing a finer job with these works than Alexander Paley; sound is fine.

See too: Balakirev: Piano Concertos No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor and No. 2 in E-Flat Major / Rimsky-Korsakov: Piano Concerto in C-Sharp Minor . Balakirev: Symphony No. 1; Islamey; Tamara , Balakirev: Symphony No. 2; Russia , Russian Romantic Piano Transcription (Ltd).
Enjoyable and historically important music by the founder of
Dace Gisclard | Houston, TX | 06/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"In addition to this piano music, Balakirev composed a respectable number of works in other media, among them two each of symphonies, piano concertos, a handful of overtures and tone poems, all very much worth hearing. He was one the great pianists of his era, and virtually founded the "Russian Five." Nevertheless, he was really more of a source of ideas for other composers. For example, he literally nagged Tchaikovsky into composing "Manfred," even supplying a program which went so far as to specify the tempos and tonalities Tchaikovsky should use!

Balakirev's piano music is very unevenly inspired, and a lot of it goes on a little too long for the quality of its material to sustain interest. There's also a lot of Chopin-diluted-with-water here, some of it containing more or less water than others.

But don't just take my word for it. In describing 22 out of 62 tracks, performer Paley's own notes unflinchingly repeat phrases like "mediocre salon piece", "I cannot say this is very successful", "nothing special", "absolutely mediocre", "more like background dinner music", "not very interesting", "nothing of interest", and even, "just junk!" The seven waltzes are described as "the worse (sic) part of his piano music," and, "a real challenge to make them interesting on a CD". He mentions Chopin's mazurkas, as "much shorter and much better than Balakirev's" (seven). I hope this doesn't discourage other customers from buying this set, but I would be less than honest if I did not mention Paley's own realistic and quite accurate assessments.

That out of the way, there are SEVERAL EXTREMELY IMPORTANT MASTERPIECES here that are required listening for anyone interested in the birth of Russian nationalism. Of course there is the gorgeous oriental fantasy "Islamey", one of the most difficult pieces in the virtuoso repertoire. Also of tremendous musical and historical importance are the masterful Sonata in B-flat minor, the transcriptions of Glinka and the slow movement of Chopin's Concerto in E minor (so beautifully recorded by Hamelin).

The sound is good, and Paley is adequate to the demands of 99% of this repertoire. However, his "Islamey" suffers by comparison to Brendel and Barere. Things begin well enough, but problems start in the tremendously demanding coda at about 7:15, where Paley has to slow down to get the notes. One can say this is only one piece out of six discs, but "Islamey" is one of the summits of the virtuoso repertoire. If a pianist assays a complete Balakirev, then his playing of "Islamey" had better be able to compete at the top level. Paley "gets through it,"--by the skin of his teeth--but the effort is audible.

As an assessment of Balakirev's music in general, it's worth quoting two passages of Paley's charming Russo-English: first, in connection with "Islamey," he says: "Usually with composers who write a lot you can see improvement in their development. But with Balakirev, his work did not improve with time. His early works are much better than later ones. Balakirev was a great pianist but he did not have enough talent to express himself only through music. He was a writer and organizer but 'Islamey' is 'Islamey'--musically it is a masterpiece".--absolutely true!

Later, Paley says, "Balakirev was fashionable in his time but did not develop or change as the times changed. All this music was like in a museum, even when it was written. When you listen to this music, your impression has to be like going to a wonderful museum and you don't have to look for anything else."

I think it might be added, take this music for what it is, and don't expect everything to be a masterpiece, although there certainly are some here. For fans of the Russian nationalists, this will be an obligatory purchase, and a set of interest to those curious about the rise of that movement. If Rimsky-Korsakov's orientalism and the Tchaikovsky piano music appeal to you, you will probably enjoy this.

My advice: don't get any of Paley's individual volumes originally issued on Ess.a.y. CD's--by the time you have bought ONE, you might as well get Brilliant's inexpensive complete set. There are few competing recordings of most of this repertoire, but supplement this set with someone else's "Islamey". Brendel's early recording for VOX is stupendous and very cheap."