Viktor Merzhanov

Grieg: Piano Concerto; Norwegian Peasant Dances; Lyric Pieces

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The early years Russian pianist Viktor Merzhanov's career were marked with several prestigious honors, competition wins, and rubbing elbows with the likes of Richter. However, apart from his professorship at the Moscow Conservatory, Merzhanov's name is not one that many modern listeners are likely familiar with. The composition of this album is, in a way, a reflection of this decline in activity, taking recordings made as far back as 1976. While Merzhanov may indeed be a venerable member of the traditional "Russian School," an album devoted entirely to Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg is not the best way to demonstrate that. The majority of the CD contains a smattering of excerpts from the Op. 72 Norwegian Peasant Dances and the complete Op. 54 Lyric Pieces. Highly stylized character pieces such as these are definitely not Merzhanov's forte. Rather, they are essentially lacking in any character or noticeable emotional input. While technically adequate, listeners are unlikely to be transported to any of the scenes or characters these pieces are designed to evoke. The A minor Concerto starts off with an optimistic amount of energy and vitality, but this sadly fades. The outer two movements quickly become stodgy and uninteresting, and the middle movement often slows well beyond its Adagio marking.

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