Richly Rewarding Piano Suites by Anton Arensky

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A seldom recorded corner of Anton Arensky’s repertoire is his five suites for two pianos. Any listener who enjoys piano music of the late romantic period will find these to be a richly rewarding discovery.

Arensky composed these suites in a time span of about thirteen years, from 1890 to 1903. There is no appreciative change in the musical language from the first to the last, which is highly romantic, light and graceful. Although the music can be technically demanding, nothing is pompous or grandiose. The textures that Arensky creates are crystal clear, and he affords his happy listener a constant flow of inventive and beguiling melodies that bear the influence of his mentor, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Arensky’s music is not simply beautiful, which it is in spades, it is also very interesting. A fine example is the first movement of Suite No. 2 which opens in a minor key with a measured and very deliberate fugue. After an impressive cadence, the movement continues with a second, brisk fugal section. Following the second statement of the theme, Arensky underpins this new fugue with the same slow one that opened the movement creating an impressive (if only too brief) double fugue. There’s fodder for heart and mind here.

From what I can see, this is disc number twelve that cpo has issued performed by the piano duo of Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov. Their repertoire ranges from Bach and Clementi to Mendelssohn, Ravel and Schnittke. The interpretations here seem ideal and they play beautifully together. There is an effect that Arensky employs often (but not overly so) of rapidly ascending scales followed by falling arpeggios in the uppermost register of the piano. This harp-like gesture is played above the melodic line. Genova and Dimitrov perform this with such a delicate and pearly touch that Arensky’s melody seems wrapped in a shower of jewels!

I have to admit that my attention was initially drawn to this CD because it was a strong seller on hbdirect.com. Our customers have done their homework. This is a very fine recording.

A YouTube sample of the music appears below.