Anatoly Lyadov (1855 – 1914)
Complete Piano Works

Media Review / Listening Diary 2021-03-02


2020-03-02 — Original posting


Table of contents


Who is Anatoly Lyadov?

Anatoly Lyadov (source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)
Anatoly Lyadov (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Anatoly Konstantinovich Lyadov (also Liadov, Анато́лий Константи́нович Ля́дов, 1855 – 1914) was a Russian composer, born in St.Petersburg. After receiving his first piano education from his step-father, the Russian conductor Konstantin Nikolaevich Lyadov (1820 – 1871), he entered the St.Petersburg conservators, to study piano and violin. Soon, he gave up instrumental studies, to focus on composition techniques, such as counterpoint and fugue. He took composition classes with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 – 1908), but was expelled for three years due to absenteeism.

Teaching Career

Although somewhat peculiar in character and in his methods, Anatoly Lyadov was a successful and respected teacher at St.Petersburg Conservatory, starting in 1878. Lyadov has been teaching numerous prominent composers, such as Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953), Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881 -1950), Mikhail Gnessin (1883 – 1957), Lazare Saminsky (1882 – 1959), and Boris Asafyev (1884 – 1949).

According to Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971), Lyadov was meticulous as a teacher, and opposed to any kind of musical innovation. There was one exception to this: he recognized Sergei Prokofiev’s talent, insisting that he was obliged to teach him in forming his style, particularly in piano music.

At age 29, Lyadov married into money, now disposing of a large country estate on Polynovka (Novgorod Oblast), half-way between St.Petersburg and Moscow. There, he spent his summers, composing at leisure.

The Composer

Lyadov was an accomplished pianist, which explains that most of his oeuvre consists of compositions for the piano. All of this is collected in the recording discussed in this posting—and it consists entirely of short pieces, see below. In fact, Lyadov seemed unable to get himself to complete any major solo works. There are also orchestral compositions, such as short tone poems. He started work on a ballet, even an opera, and the art critic, patron, and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872 – 1929) commissioned a ballet score. None of this ever reached completion. It is unclear whether this was due to lack of motivation, or maybe lack of self-confidence.

Even though some of his tone poems (mostly programmatic) apparently show an exceptional talent for orchestral colors, Lyadov rarely appears in orchestral programs in Western Europe.

Piano Oeuvre

Also the considerable number of pieces in his piano oeuvre are largely unknown around here. I have run across Lyadov’s name, but I only encountered one single composition performed as encore: the well-known “Musical Snuffbox” (Muzikalnaya tabakerka), op.32. Denis Matsuev (*1975) used it as encore in his Zurich recital on 2015-11-27, and Olga Kern (*1975) did the same in her recital in Zurich on 2019-03-27.

These scarce encounters with Lyadov’s piano oeuvre were enough to trigger my curiosity—and the purchase of the CD set below, featuring Lyadov’s complete oeuvre for piano 2-hands, plus the works for piano 4-hands, as well as the single composition for 2 pianos / 8-hands.

Lyadov’s Piano Music on YouTube

On YouTube one finds a fair number of video (& still) recordings of pieces by Lyadov, mostly by Russian pianists, of course. But these again are really just focusing on a very small portion of the composer’s oeuvre, such as the aforementioned op.32, or selected, isolated preludes (see below). Still, the fact that some of the most prominent Russian pianists recorded works by Anatoly Lyadov indicates that this composer is more than a little side-note in Russian music. Examples:


Media Information

Marco Rapetti — Anatoly Lyadov: Complete Piano Works (CD Cover)

Anatoly Lyadov: Complete Piano Works

Marco Rapetti, piano
Akanè Makita, Giampaolo Nuti, Daniela de Santis, piano

Brilliant Classics 94155 (5 CDs, stereo, ℗ 2011 / © 2015)
Booklet: 16 pp., en

Marco Rapetti — Anatoly Lyadov: Complete Piano Works (CD, EAN-13 barcode)
amazon media link
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The Artist: Marco Rapetti

Marco Rapetti (© Marco Rapetti)
Marco Rapetti (© Marco Rapetti)

Marco Rapetti graduated from the Conservatorio Niccolò Paganini in Genova, Italy. He continued his musical education at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini in Firenze, then at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, and finally at the Facoltà di Musicologia in Cremona. For further details on the artist’s biography and career, awards, etc. see his Website.

Besides launching a career as international soloist, Marco Rapetti has started teaching already at age 21, first at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole (Firenze) and at the Conservatorio Verdi di Milano, and from there, his teaching career took him not just to institutions in Italy, but also to locations in the USA, as well as o Austria and Spain. Rapetti now is holding a full-time professorship at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini in Firenze. He also has posted musicological articles, and he cooperates with various radio stations, both as conductor, as well as soloist.

Repertoire

As concertizing and recording artist, Rapetti covers a wide-spanning repertoire, from pre-classical works to high-, late- and post-romantic (20th century) composers. He focuses on pianistic challenges and rarities, with solo, orchestral and chamber music works by composers such as

For more detail see the artist’s discography.


What’s in the CD set?

In 2010, Marco Rapetti recorded Lyadov’s entire piano repertoire on five CDs. These five discs follow the chronological order, i.e., the content approximately follows the opus numbering, with the occasional compositions without opus number (such as all compositions for piano, 4-hands) inserted at the appropriate spots.

For the works for piano 4-hands, Marco Rapetti performed together with the pianist Akanè Makita, and for the one composition for two pianos / 8-hands, the pianists Giampaolo Nuti and Daniela de Santis joined the above two pianists.

Content Summary

As mentioned above, Lyadov’s piano oeuvre consists of small pieces only. Let me illustrate this with some numbers:

  • On these CDs, the entire oeuvre lasts 4h44’43”
  • That time is spread over 53 “albums” (typically an opus number), leading to an average of 5’22” per “album”
    • Out of these “albums”, 7 compositions (15 tracks) are for piano 4-hands, and one track (Slava / “Glory”, op.47) is for 2 pianos, 8-hands
  • The single, biggest piece is the Idylle in D♭ major for piano, op.25, with a duration of 6’10”
  • Most of the “albums” / opus numbers are small collections of typically 2 – 6 pieces. All in all, the CD set includes 139 tracks, in other words: the average track duration is 2’03”
  • Moreover, the three longest tracks are sets of variations, i.e., fragmented in themselves:
    • 12 Variations on a Theme by Glinka in B♭ major for piano, op.35 (15’22”)
    • 10 Variations and Coda on a Polish Folk Theme in A♭ major for piano, op.51 (12’06”)
    • 24 Variations and Finale on a Simple Theme for piano 4 hands (collaborative work, 6’49”)
  • If we define each of these variations as a “piece” in itself (as other sets of variations are also split into individual tracks), this increases the number of pieces by 46, to a total of 185 “pieces” with an average duration of 1’32”
  • 11 of these movements are actually not by Anatoly Lyadov: 5 out of 6 in the Shutka-Kadril’ for piano 4-hands (1899), and 5 out of the 8 Variations on a Russian Folk Theme (1899) are contributions by fellow composers, to joint works.
  • The chronological ordering leads to the individual CDs covering the following ranges of years:
    • CD#1: 1876 – 1879
    • CD#2: 1881 – 1889
    • CD#3: 1889 – 1893
    • CD#4: 1893 – 1898
    • CD#5: 1899 – 1913

Contents in Detail

In lieu of a detailed description, I created an interactive table, sortable by any of the fields. You may also use the search field to look for specific pieces (e.g.: Sarabande), for a year (e.g., 1899), a genre (e.g.: 4hd), or any text (e.g.: First):

TitleGenreOp.#Year(s)#TracksTimeCD/Tr.
Biryulki (Spillikins), 14 piecespiano 218761413'05"1-01
Six Pieces: Prelude, Gigue, Fugue, 3 Mazurkaspiano 31876-77613'41"1-15
Four Arabesquespiano 41877412'34"1-21
24 Variations and Finale on a simple Theme (in collaboration with César Cui and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)pno_4hd187816'49"1-25
Four Paraphrases on a Simple Theme: Valse, Galop, Gigue, Cortège triomphalpno_4hd1878-7946'14"1-26
Etude in A♭ majorpiano 5188112'52"2-01
Impromptu in D majorpiano 6188111'32"2-02
Two Intermezzi: D major, F majorpiano 7188125'22"2-03
Two Intermezzi: B♭ major, B♭ majorpiano 8188325'24"2-05
Two Pieces: Valse in F♯ minor, Mazurka in A♭ majorpiano 9188324'54"2-07
Three Pieces: Prelude in D♭ major, Mazurka in C major, Mazurka in D majorpiano10188436'44"2-09
Three Pieces: Prelude in B minor, Mazurka in Dorian mode, Mazurka in F♯ minorpiano11188538'25"2-12
Etude in E majorFirst (*)piano12188612'01"2-15
Velichaniye (Song of Praise)Firstpno_4hd188713'49"2-16
Four Preludes: G major, B♭ major, A major, F♯ minorpiano13188746'14"2-17
Two Mazurkas: A major, D minorpiano15188722'30"2-21
Two Nabroska (Sketches): Stradaniye (Suffering), Pastorale — First (*)piano17188723'40"2-23
Novinka (Novellette) in A minorFirst (*)piano201882-8912'54"2-25
Shestviye (Procession)First (*)piano188911'24"3-01
Ballade in D major "Pro starinu" (About Olden Times)piano21a188914'09"3-02
Bagatelle in D♭ majorpiano30188912'07"3-03
Three Pieces: Prelude on a Russian theme in A♭ major, Grotesque in C major, Pastoral in F majorpiano33188934'53"3-04
Nabrosok (Sketch) "Na Luzhayke" (In the Clearing) in F majorFirst (*)piano23189014'01"3-07
Two Pieces: Prelude in E major, Kobïl'naya (Berceuse) in G♭ majorpiano24189026'38"3-08
Shutka-Kadril' (Quadrille-Joke): Pantalon (Artsibushev), Été (Vitols), Poule (Lyadov), Trénis (Sokolov), Pastourelle (Glazunov), Finale (Rimsky-Korsakov) — Firstpno_4hd189066'47"3-10
Idylle in D♭ majorpiano25189116'10"3-16
Malenkiy Val's (Little Waltz) in G majorpiano26189112'27"3-17
Three Preludes: E♭ major, B major, G♭ majorpiano27189134'24"3-18
Kukolki (Marionettes) in E♭ majorpiano29189215'39"3-21
Two Pieces: Derevenskaya Mazurka (Rustic Mazurka) in G major, Prelude in B♭ minorpiano31189326'46"3-22
Muzikal'naya tabakerka (A musical snuffbox) in A majorpiano32189312'10"3-24
Slavleniya (Celebration)Firstpno_4hd189311'10"4-01
Three Canons: Canon in G major, Canon in C minor, Canon in F major — First (*)piano34189433'16"4-02
12 Variations on a Theme by Glinka in B♭ majorpiano351894115'22"4-05
Prelude-Pastorale in A majorFirst (*)piano189412'08"4-06
Three Preludes: F♯ major, B♭ minor, G majorpiano36189532'45"4-07
Etude in F majorpiano37189511'36"4-10
Mazurka in F majorFirst (*)piano38189513'24"4-11
Four Preludes: A♭ major, C minor, B major, F♯ minorpiano39189546'05"4-12
Sarabande in G minorFirst (*)piano189513'15"4-16
Two Fugues: Fugue in F♯ minor, Fugue in D minor — First (*)piano41189624'47"4-17
Prelude in F majorFirst (*)pno_4hdposth.189710'39"4-19
Etude and Three Preludes: Etude in C♯ minor, Prelude in C major, Prelude in D minor, Prelude in D♭ majorpiano40189746'08"4-20
Two Preludes and Mazurka: Prelude in B♭ major, Prelude in B major, Mazurka on Polish Themes in A majorpiano42189834'01"4-24
Barcarolle in F♯ majorpiano44189814'22"4-27
8 Variations on a Russian Folk ThemeFirst (*)piano1899910'26"5-01
Four Preludes: B♭ major, G minor, G major, E minorpiano46189944'06"5-10
Slava (Glory)Firstpno_2x4hd47189912'05"5-14
Two Pieces: Etude in A major, Canzonetta in B♭ major — First (*)piano48189924'44"5-15
Prelude in D♭ majorpiano57/1190012'20"5-17
10 Variations on a Polish Folk Theme in A♭ major, Op. 51 (1901)piano511901112'06"5-18
Three Baletnikh nomera (Ballet Pieces): E♭ major, C major, A major — First (*)piano52190136'09"5-19
Three Bagatelles: B major, G major, A♭ majorpiano53190332'10"5-22
Valse (Waltz) in E majorpiano57/2190511'53"5-25
Mazurka in F minorpiano57/3190511'21"5-26
Four Pieces: Grimasa (Grimace), Sumrak (Gloom), Iskusheniye (Temptation), Vospominaniye (Reminiscence)piano641909-1045'27"5-27
Russian Folksong "Tanets Komara" (Mosquito's Dance)First (*)piano191110'49"5-31
10 Detskikh pesen (Children's Songs)Firstpno_2&4hdposth.13'21"5-32
Scherzo (Chorus) in B minorFirst (*)pianoposth.10'46"5-33
Fuga on LA-DO-FAFirst (*)pianoposth.191310'44"5-34

How Does it Sound?

Given the fact that Lyadov only composed (very) short pieces (if not miniatures), one cannot (and should not) expect “grand” piano literature, such as big, romantic piano sonatas (say, like Tchaikovsky’s Grand Sonata No.2 in G major, op.37, let alone Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No.2 in B♭ major, op.36, or the major piano works by Lyadov’s pupils Prokofiev and Myaskovsky). Lyadov preferred the short forms of Prelude, Mazurka, Etude, Ballade, Barcarolle, Impromptu, Intermezzo, Bagatelle, and others.

Style

Lyadov’s piano music is extraordinarily broad in its styles, ranging from (pseudo-)baroque to (predominantly) romantic, reminding of music by Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) and (especially) Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849). To his contemporaries (let alone his pupils), Lyadov’s compositions must have felt retrospective, conservative, maybe conventional. Yet, the composer managed to establish and maintain a personal style throughout his oeuvre, even where he follows the models of other, romantic composers.

One may call the music unpretentious (in most pieces, at least)—nevertheless, it is always entertaining, and very diverse. I don’t think one can call Lyadov’s music technically harmless or easy, even though it doesn’t pretend to be virtuosic. Lyadov’s music does not try to impress with extroverted, technical brilliance or “flashy” features. Still, it comes with its pianistic and musical challenges and is not for the beginner.

The pieces may all be short, the form may be simple—it is rarely more complex than A-B-A. Nevertheless, the compositions are all full of originality, well-written, covering a refreshing variety in styles, moods. I can’t remember a single instance where I was bored while listening through all of the five CDs—several times!

Performance

Marco Rapetti performs this music with attention to detail, with lively agogics and dynamics. His playing is technically flawless, as far as I can tell. For additional, quick notes on the performance see the last segment in this posting.

What’s in This for the Listener?

People are unlikely to listen to major, contiguous segments of Lyadov’s oeuvre in long sessions. However, I claim that you can make an arbitrary selection of 2, 3, 4, 10, or more pieces from any of the 139 tracks (almost 5 hours of music!)—and I can almost guarantee that you will not be disappointed by the resulting “sonatina” or “suite”, whatever you would call such a sub-set.

To the artists: why don’t you (from time to time) select an Lyadov encore other than the ubiquitous Muzïkal’naya tabakerka, op.32? There is so much to choose from here. Just let the audience know what you are playing—they would not be able to tell otherwise!


Exclusive?

Marco Rapetti isn’t quite the only artist to explore Anatoly Lyadov’s piano oeuvre. However, as far as I could tell, the above CD set, recorded 2010-12-12:15 was at least the first complete recording, and for some 5 years, it remained the only one. The works labelled with “First” in the table above are marked as world first recordings in the liner notes. This includes 16 works (31 tracks) for piano (2 hands), 5 works (11 tracks) out of 7 for piano 4 hands, as well as the Slava (Glory) for 2 pianos / 8 hands. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but it looks as if at least for the (most) works for piano 4 hands (and the one for 2 pianos / 8 hands), this recording still is the only available recording on CD.

Olga Solovieva (© Olga Solovieva)
Olga Solovieva (© Olga Solovieva)

An Alternative Recording?

In the years that followed, Marco Rapetti’s Lyadov recording got some competition: the Russian pianist Olga Valerievna Solovieva (born in Moscow, now an achieved soloist and chamber musician, and teacher at the Gnessin State Musical College) presented her own recording of Lyadov’s piano oeuvre on 4 CDs under the Northern Flowers label. Naturally, that recording is also labeled “First Complete Recording”.

At least from the “Western view” it looks as if Olga Solovieva, too, is looking for rarities in the repertoire. Some of the composers in her recordings (mostly piano and chamber music) may well be completely unknown to most people in Western Europe. Some examples from Olga Solovieva’s discography illustrate this:

Differences in the “Inventory”

Solovieva did her Lyadov recording 2012 – 2015. I did a cross-check and found that Solovieva’s CD set covers virtually all of the works for piano (2 hands) in Rapetti’s recording, including those marked First in the list above. A direct comparison is tricky, as the two recordings don’t always mention the full original name, and the title translations are often different. Where I could identify such duplicates, I have marked them with an asterisk (*) behind the “First” in the table above.

Olga Solovieva’s 4-CD set does not include the works for piano 4 hands, nor the Slava for 2 pianos / 8 hands. However, Solovieva’s recording does add a number of spurious works for piano (2 hands) that are not included in Rapetti’s collection.

For your reference, I’m adding the information on Olga Solovieva’s recording—with the caveat that I do not have this recording, nor have I listened to any of the available tracks on YouTube. Therefore, I’m only commenting on the “inventory”, leaving it up to you to explore the actual recording.

Olga Solovieva’s Lyadov Recording, Volumes 1 / 2

Olga Solovieva — Lyadov: Complete Piano Works, vol.1&2 (CD cover)

Lyadov: Complete Works for Piano (1/2)
Olga Solovieva, piano
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 99106/107
(2 CDs, stereo, ℗ / © 2012)

Olga Solovieva — Lyadov: Complete Piano Works, vol.1&2 (CD, EAN-13 barcode)
amazon media link
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Olga Solovieva’s Lyadov Recording, Volumes 3 / 4

Olga Solovieva — Lyadov: Complete Piano Works, vol.3&4 (CD cover)
Olga Solovieva — Lyadov: Complete Piano Works, vol.3&4 (CD cover, back)

Lyadov: Complete Works for Piano (3/4)
Olga Solovieva, piano
Northern Flowers NF/PMA 99113/114
(2 CDs, stereo, ℗ / © 2016)

Olga Solovieva — Lyadov: Complete Piano Works, vol.3&4 (CD, EAN-13 barcode)
amazon media link
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Conclusions

If you are a “lexical mind” and really are interested in having all of Lyadov’s piano oeuvre at your disposal, you would need to consider acquiring both of the above “complete” recordings: Olga Solovieva’s for an up-to-date complete recording of the pieces for piano (2 hands), plus Marco Rapetti’s if you also want to cover the pieces for piano 4 hands, and the Slava for 2 pianos, 8 hands.

In the end, however, either of these choices offers a similarly vast array of pieces—more than you will ever listen to in a single or successive sessions. I don’t mean to belittle these two sets, and there are valid arguments for either of them:

  • Marco Rapetti’s because it includes the pieces for piano 4 hands.
  • Olga Solovieva’s for the few extra pieces for piano 2-hands, and possibly because the artist is Russian (I have friends who would not hesitate stating “must have a Russian artist for Russian music!”).

Performance, Quick Comparison

However, I can’t really judge Solovieva’s recording in its completeness. I have done a really quick comparison of a few tracks (op.10 – op.12), and here are a few quick notes:

  • Solovieva’s YouTube recordings unfortunately are mono only, dynamically flat—definitely unimpressive (if not even poor) and not representative of the “real” recordings. They may at best serve to get a quick taste of the music.
  • On Spotify, Olga Solovieva’s recording sound is much better—good, but not brilliant.
  • The two artists have slightly (not dramatically) different tempo preferences.
  • More importantly, Solovieva’s performance feels much more “tamed”, maybe more modest, unspectacular.
  • Marco Rapetti’s recording (comparing Solovieva on Spotify to Rapetti on CD!) is clearly superior in sound, clarity, acoustic presence, transparency, “grip”.
  • In addition, Rapetti ‘s playing “feels” far more vivid and uses distinctly more (and more lively) agogics. It also gives the impression of extra musical presence.

In conclusion, I’m happy with having Marco Rapetti’s recording. It offers

  • superior sound
  • a more lively performance
  • the pieces for piano 4 hands, plus the Slava for 2 pianos 8 hands
  • I can easily live without the inclusion of the few spurious works for piano 2 hands that Olga Solovieva offers—Marco Rapetti’s recording already features plenty of music to listen to!

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