Three rarely heard and very attractive Russian concertos all written in the late nineteenth-century Romantic tradition. This album comprises three rarely heard Russian concertos, making an interesting and enjoyable programme. Each work is immediately tuneful and appealing, and will be of interest to anyone who responds to the Romantic music of Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.
Glazunov is the most well-known composer on this album. In his lifetime, he was a key figure in Russian/Soviet musical life, as a composer, conductor and teacher. Today, it is for his colourful and melodic orchestral music which he is remembered - symphonies, ballets and concertos - of which his Second Piano Concerto is comparatively rarely heard. Composed in 1917, this single-movement work manages to blend in the elements of a four-movement symphonic structure with an overall sonata-form layout, in the manner of the piano concertos of Liszt. It is all worked out most ingeniously. The lyrical opening gathers pace to the main body of the work; the central episodes are a songful andante, reminiscent of Liszt, and this is followed by a balletic scherzo. The finale is in the heroic-Russian mould, bringing the work to a vigorous conclusion.
Yuly Konyus came from a prominent musical family of French descent. he entered the Moscow Conservatoire where he was taught piano by his father, a famous teacher, and composition under Arensky and Taneyev. Though he left following a quarrel with the Conservatoire director, Safonov, he went on to occupy several important posts, including Professor of Compostion at the Saratov Conservatory (1920-29). In his way, he was quite a radical whose chief work was the creation of an elaborate theory of musical form called ’metrotectonism’, which would need a large book to explain fully! He also mantained an international career as a solo and orchestral violinist in New York, Paris and Moscow, and of course he was also a composer. The Violin Concerto in E minor was written in 1896. Like the Glazunov concerto, it is written in one movement and is full of melodic material. There is plenty of opportunity for the violinist to show off in the brilliant passages, and although the work is very much in the Tchaikovsky tradition, there are passages which look forward to the Sibelius Concerto.
Karl Davïdov was born in lLatvia, son of a Jewish doctor and amateur violinist. He studied studied mathematics in Moscow then composition in Leipzig with Moritz Hauptmann, becoming principal cellist of the Gewandhaus orchestra in 1859. He returned to Russia three years later and became a professor at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, and effectively established the Russian school of cello playing (Rostropovich is a great-grand-pupil). He developed his career as a soloist and was soon acclaimed as one of the greatest players of his day - ’King of all cellists’ as Tachaikovsky called him. His second Cello Concerto, in A minor, was composed just after his reurned to Russia (1863) and although it is written in the Leipzig academic mould Davïdov imbues it with a Russian flavour, and gives the soloist plenty of opportunity to show off his prowess. David Fanning, the sleeve-note writer, points out how similar the opening of the slow movement is (with its noble woodwind choir and rapturous cello entry) to the corresponding passage in Dvorák’s great Cello Concerto written thirty-two years later.