Maria Lettberg

Die Zaubergarten

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In light of the widespread fascination with folklore in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it's not surprising that much Russian music was inspired by fairy tales. Der Zaubergarten (The Enchanted Garden), Maria Lettberg's 2013 recording of piano transcriptions of Russian orchestral music, focuses on the works of three composers, Mikhail Glinka, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Igor Stravinsky, who knew the magical power of fairy tales and how their exotic colors and moods could be effectively translated into fantastic music. However, much of the effectiveness of these piano pieces is owed to their skilled arrangers, Franz Liszt, Sergey Lyapunov, Sergey Rachmaninov, and others who capitalized on the popularity of the orchestral excerpts, and added some of their own pianistic brilliance, helping spread their popularity around the world. Of course, in Stravinsky's case, he made his own transcription of "The Firebird," and its coloristic effects are closely tied to the orchestral original, in ways that other transcriptions are not. Lettberg's playing ranges from the sublimely mysterious to the spectacularly showy, and she shows a strong aptitude for clarifying complexity and sorting out multiple layers, as demonstrated here and in her recordings of Scriabin. But her handling of the piano's sonorities, shading them to correspond to orchestral timbres, is remarkable, and her sensitivity to tone colors makes this album a delight.

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