ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Anton Arensky - Suites for Two Pianos

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ANTON ARENSKY - Suites for Two Pianos - Lavrova/Primakov Duo - Natalia Lavrova (Piano) - Vassily Primakov (Piano) - 884501622455 - Released: November 2011 - LP Classics 1001

1- Suite No. 1, Op. 15
2- Suite No. 2 "Silhouettes", Op. 23
3- Suite No. 3 "Variations", Op. 33
4- Suite No. 4, Op. 62

The launch of a new classical music record label is always cause for celebration, and it's even better news when one of the founders, and label recording artist, happens to be the world class pianist Vassily Primakov. All of his previous recordings on Bridge Records were released to critical acclaim and public admiration alike. Co-founded with Russian American pianist and teacher Natalia Lavrova, the label's mandate is to promote young new artists and to re-establish undiscovered historical treasures to the catalogue. This is good news indeed for all classical music fans, but even bigger news for piano buffs.

LP Classics take a foot in the right direction with their inaugural release by avoiding the common trap of releasing something tried and true and overly recorded, and opt instead for the Suites for Two Pianos by Russian composer Anton Arensky (1861-1906), in honor of the 150th anniversary of his birth. Although of the same time period as Alexander Scriabin (who was actually one of his students at the Moscow Conservatory) and only ten years his senior, Arensky's music never quite pushed the envelope as far as the harmonically evolved piano music of his student did. Anton Stepanovich Arensky remained true to the previous generations of Russian composers like Tchaikovsky and Rimsky- Korsakov. To me, his piano music his like a hybrid of Tchaikovsky and Schumann, at moments very much resembling the latter's Kinderszenen. Concise and descriptive, many of the movements of these Suites for Two Pianos are like miniature tone poems, or like explorations of different styles from the baroque Gavotte to the modern Nocturne. Laid out in chronological order on the CD, they help demonstrate the composer's harmonic development until it reaches great depths in Le RÍve from the Suite No. 4, Op. 62.

Better advocates than the Lavrova/Primakov Duo would be difficult to find for this music, as I'm sure it's in their genes. They share the role of First Piano from suite to suite, but they are so evenly matched that identifying which one is playing which part at any given time would make for a good guessing game.

Good music. Good performers. Good recording. It's off to a good start!

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2012