BALAKIREV: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F Sharp minor, Op. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2 in E Flat Major; Grande Fantaisie on Russian Folk songs, Op. 4 – Anatasia Seifetdinova, piano/ Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky – Naxos 8.570396, 69:44 *****:
Rimsky-Korsakov praised Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev as being an excellent pianist. The two piano concertos of the conservative composer who lived until 1910 are colorful and tuneful works which partake of similar rich orchestrations to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. No. 2 had to be completed by another Russian composer, Sergey Lyapunov. Balakirev was not only a pianist and composer but also a conductor, teacher and mentor to many of the Russian composers. He was only a few years older than both Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, and had a major influence on Russian music in general.
The short First Concerto echoes the music of Chopin in some sections; interesting to note that Balakirev dropped out of music for some years and worked for the Warsaw Railway. The considerably longer Second Concerto uses as a theme in its Adagio movement a chant from the Russian Orthodox Requiem. Exuberant bell-like patterns distinguish the third and final movement. The Grande Fantaisie draws on two Russian folk songs and is part of a long tradition of such nationalist works, which began before the Revolution. Sonics are fine – we don’t need to accept poor sound to enjoy more unusual Russian music as was true during the Soviet era.
– John Sunier