Tolstoy’s Waltz – Lera Auerbach, piano/Chiyuki Urano, baritone – BIS

by | Dec 2, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Tolstoy’s Waltz = TOLSTOY: Waltz in F Major; GRIBOYEDOV: Two
Waltzes; PASTERNAK: Two Preludes; Piano Sonata; ODOYEVSKY: Two Waltzes;
Canon; Lullaby; POLENOV: Farewell Song; My Soul is Dark; To the Sea;
FEDOTOV: My Darling; The Little Cuckoo; DIAGHILEV: Do you remember,
Maria? BALANCHINE: Valse lente – Lera Auerbach, piano/ Chiyuki Urano,
baritone – BIS CD-1502  62:29 ****:

A salon recital of music by romantic Russians better known for their
work in other art forms makes this disc a most unusual hour. Vasily
Polenov and Pavel Fedotov, for example, are outstanding painters of the
period, with Fedotov’s having established the realist school of
painting in Russia. Vladimir Odoyevsky studied keyboard with John Field
and early supported rising stars Balakirev, Tchaikovsky, and
Rimsky-Korsakov. He even translated Schiller’s Ode to Joy into Russian
for the first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth in that country
(1836).  Alexander Griboyedov likewise studied with John Field
before going on to become a foremost playwright. His two waltzes could
easily pass as music by Grieg or unknown Schubert, especially the Waltz
in E Minor, whose transparency beguiles.

Boris Pasternak hardly needs a new introduction. Besides his massive
novel Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak penned a large number of compositions
while under the spell of Scriabin. The 1909 Piano Sonata in one
movement, moody and episodic, has the angular harmonies and fleeting
passions typical of Scriabin, especially the dark undercurrents. Place
it side-by-side with Alban Berg’s Sonata, you music programmers. Of his
two preludes, the Prelude in G# Minor may enjoy further performances
from eminent pianists. The Sentimental Waltz by Odoyevsky which follows
the Pasternak Sonata is ingenuousness personified. The little Canon
captures the composer’s admiration for Bach. The G Minor Waltz makes
obeisance to Chopin.

The vocal romances, My Soul is Dark, To the Sea, My Darling, and The
Little Cuckoo, are powerfully rendered by Mr. Urano’s hearty baritone.
My Soul is Dark comes from Lord Byron’s Hebrew Melodies, a plaint
worthy of Macduff after his family is murdered. The Little Cuckoo is a
disarming love song, with lyrics by Snopkov. Sergei Diaghilev, who ran
Russian ballet virtually single-handed through Les Ballets Russes, left
only his one love song, Do You Remember, Maria? after Alexander Tolstoy
as a tribute to his early love of composition: he was only fifteen
years old when he wrote it. Finally, the two waltzes which brace the
program, the Valse lente of George Balanchine, dedicated to Madeleine
Malraux, and the eponymous Waltz in F by Count Leo Tolstoy, each offer
a tender moment recalling a bygone age. Nice work by pianist Auerbach,
plying the Steinway D at the King Sekiguchi Studio, Tokyo, 27-29
January 2004.

–Gary Lemco