ARENSKY: Five Suites for Two Pianos – Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov – SWR2/cpo

by | Jul 29, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

ANTON ARENSKY: Five Suites for Two Pianos – Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov – SWR2/cpo 777 651-2, 79:56 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
There are at least four CD competitors in this set of suites for two pianos, but some of them only provide the first four, ignoring the fifth included on this CD. But there is major confusion in the liner notes speaking of this piano duo as being “here united on one instrument.” That sounds like piano four hands, but the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the expression duo pianists as two pianists playing duets, each at a separate piano. And nowhere does it say anything about piano four hands. Must just be the result of a poor translation from the original German.  (The Duo does have some piano four hands material in their ten previous CDs for cpo.)
Upon listening more closely on headphones, I would definitely say this disc is of two pianos—although as with most two-piano recordings, I wish they were spaced further apart. (I love listening to them in the car.) Even the exaggerated left-right spacing of headphones is not enough for me in this case.  I don’t understand why they usually nest the two pianos together like that in performance. I once recorded a two piano concert with my binaural dummy head right between them, and they were a couple feet apart. Now that’s a two-piano effect!
Suite No. 2 shares with No. 4 in only being a bit over 13 minutes length. However, No. 5—subtitled “Children’s Suite”—has eight extremely short movements which total 11 minutes. The First Suite has only three movements, while No. 3—subtitled “Variations”—has ten. The Second Suite also has a subtitle of “Silhouetten.”  All five are brimming with delightful, simple and direct melodies and miniature dance forms such as Gavotte, Polacca, Menuet, Valse, etc. The music doesn’t sound especially Russian or dated, it’s just light and very enjoyable. No. 4 does part from the slight Tchaikovsky/Chopin influence and shows just a touch of the Scriabinesque if you listen closely. The piano sound—though overly-integrated for me—is excellent. (By the way, the rest of the duo’s names are: Aglika Genova & Liuben Dimitrov.)
—John Sunier

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