“Russian Fantasy” – Music for Two Pianos – MUSSORGSKY: Night on Bald Mt.; RACHMANINOFF: Suite No. 1; GLINKA: Valse-fantasie in b; SCRIABIN: Fantasy in a; BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances – Vladimir & Vovka Ashkenazy, pianos – Decca

by | Mar 9, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

“Russian Fantasy” – Music for Two Pianos – MUSSORGSKY: Night on Bald Mt.; RACHMANINOFF: Suite No. 1; GLINKA: Valse-fantasie in b; SCRIABIN: Fantasy in a; BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances – Vladimir & Vovka Ashkenazy, pianos – Decca 478 2940. 59:43 *****:
The previous Decca CD by the father and son team was devoted to music of two pianos of Debussy and Ravel, and this time it is an appropriate program of Russian music.  Only the short Scriabin work and the much-recorded Suite by Rachmaninoff were originally composed for two pianos. The others were arranged for two pianos by Vovka Ashkenazy, so they add greatly to the program with their individuality. Both the opening Night on Bald Mt. and the closing Polovtsian Dances work wonderfully on the two pianos—in spite of the much greater instrumental colors available in the symphony orchestra. There was a one piano/four hands version of the Mussorgsky done by Sergey Liapunov, and Vovka adapted that for this two-piano version. It is full of fantastical effects, which come across very well on the two pianos. He based his transcription of the Borodin on the original orchestral score.
Each of the four movements of Rachmaninoff’s Suite is headed in the music by a quotation from poetry that dictates the mood of the piece—an unusual step for Rachmaninoff. The last movement is based on a poem Easter Festival, and percussively imitates the chimes of the bells of St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Novgorod, near where Rachmaninoff spent his childhood. The composers creates a massive pealing effect on the two pianos.
Tony Faulkner was the engineer for the recording, and the separation of the two pianos is just right (many recordings have them too close together). Along with the previous Debussy, another two-piano disc for all fans of the form.
—John Sunier

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