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.
Claudio Abbado has termed Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov “THE piano duo of the young generation,” and the two have indeed come to be regarded as one of today’s most sought-after piano duos worldwide. On their latest CD, dedicated to their beloved teacher Vladimir Krainev, who died in 2011, they interpret suites by Anton Arensky. Even though Arensky, who died at a young forty-five, never managed to control his self-destructive passions, he enjoyed enormous renown as a composer during his lifetime and his chamber, instrumental, and vocal legacy – including above all the five suites for two pianos heard here – impressively attests to his towering artistic stature. From his audiences, whose members included the geniuses Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy, he earned great praise for the suites – both in the orchestral version and in the original version for two pianos. Arensky grew up in a music-loving well-to-do family and studied composition under Rimsky-Korsakov and counterpoint and fugue at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He then became a composition teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was appointed to a professorship in 1889. He trained many students who later became famous composers (including Rachmaninov and Scriabin). This refreshingly modern interpretation of the suites presents them in all their fascinating sophistication and incredible transparency and reveals the spirited emotionality, sincerity, and bold virtuosity of the effective and dazzling piano part in their best light.
Arensky was born in Novgorod, Russia. He was musically precocious and had composed a number of songs and piano pieces by the age of nine. With his mother and father, he moved to Saint Petersburg in 1879, where he studied composition at… read more
Genova and Dimitrov
Performers: Genova and Dimitrov
Genova and Dimitrov is one of the most internationally sought-after piano duos today. Already as a two-months-young ensemble, the Bulgarian-Greek descended pianists caused a sensation by winning the Grand Slam of piano duo competitions within only two years, namely… read more
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A YouTube sample of the music appears below.
Anton Arensky: Suite for Two Pianos No. 1 Op. 15 - I. Romance