Konstantin Scherbakov

24 Transcendental Etudes: Liszt & Lyapunov

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The 12 Transcendental Etudes of composer and pianist Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924) were rarely played for many years, but the revival of golden age pianism spearheaded by the Steinway & Sons label, among others, has brought them out of the woodwork. They were inspired by Liszt's Transcendental Etudes and were dedicated to Liszt's memory. This said, they don't attempt to replicate the exact structure, or programmatic subject matter, of the Liszt set. The basic idea is that there are 12 of them, and they tax the pianist to the limit. If anything, they exceed the Lisztian demands, which is saying a lot. There are various technical fireworks, but if you want to skip to the best part, sample Lesghinka. Pianist Konstantin Scherbakov can lay claim to being an heir of the great Russian virtuoso school, for he doesn't miss a step, or even let you see him sweat here. These pieces are all known in English as “Transcendental Etudes,” which is undeniably a catchy title, though not an accurate translation of the original French, “Etudes d'exécution transcendante,” or “Studies in Transcendental Execution.” This term more accurately gives the flavor of Scherbakov's readings, which have a feeling of total technical mastery. In the Liszt originals, you may miss a bit of the great composer-pianist's charisma. In the Lyapunov, he's ideal: he is simply one of the few pianists around who can get his fingers around these pieces technically. Recorded in Steinway Hall, New York City, the sound is excellent.

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