Maxim Fedotov / Dmitry Yablonsky

Sergey Lyapunov: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 1

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Sergey Lyapunov was part of the generation of mostly lightly nationalist Russian composers trained by the Mighty Handful, in this case Mily Balakirev. Before long he became better known as a pianist than as a composer, and most of his music was forgotten. But the Naxos label has specialized in finding the nuggets among the gravel, and they've come up with one herein Lyapunov's Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 61. The work was composed in 1915, toward the end of his life, and apparently reflects a process in which he left some of his more generic Russian late Romantic influences behind. The chief attraction is in the violin writing, which is highly idiomatic despite the fact that the violin wasn't Lyapunov's instrument. The solo part is dense and extraordinarily difficult, suggesting a transfer of the Lisztian language of Lyapunov's piano concertos to the violin; the dense figuration breaks off only for ultra-sensuous romantic melody. Russian violinist Maxim Fedotov does the work justice with a vigorous, slashing performance that does not flag in the giant cadenza at the end of the work's single movement. It's a bit surprising that more famous contemporary violinists of the Russian school haven't trotted this piece out; it's of moderate length, and it would make an ideal concert opener. But apparently Fedotov's is the only version currently available, and it's entirely satisfying. The Symphony No. 1 in B minor, Op. 12, completed in 1887, is much less fun; it is competently orchestrated but never seems to break out of the walls it constructs around itself. Still, the recording-oriented Russian Philharmonic Orchestra under Dmitry Yablonsky is consistent, and Russian music lovers will want the concerto in their collections.

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