Even to fans of late Silver Age Russian romanticism, the music of Anton Arensky is little known. His melancholic Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, his exuberant First Piano Trio, and his two symphonies have had some exposure, but few know his Piano Concerto in F minor, Symphonic Scherzo, Fantasia on Russian Folksongs, and To the Memory of Suvorov. This Naxos release aims to fill that gap with sparklingly well-played and sympathetic interpretions of the latter four works by pianist Konstantin Scherbakov, the capable Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, and Dmitry Yablonsky. Unfortunately, the early Piano Concerto still sounds like an ungainly union of sentimentality and virtuosity while the perhaps even earlier Symphonic Scherzo sounds like an exercise by a gifted student who could come up with a good tune but didn't know what to do with it. The later works are better composed, but no more inspired, with To the Memory of Suvorov hitting a particularly low note in its tub-thumping patriotism. Thus, while fans of late Silver Age Russian music in general and of Arensky's music in particular will have to at least try this disc, how many times they will return to it remains unknowable. Naxos' digital sound is clean, clear, and colorful, but not especially present.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 2|