on 19 July 2011
This CD contains over 80 minutes of music, 30 compositions by Borodin and Ravel's tribute to Borodin a la maniere de Borodine (1913).
The Petite Suite (1885) is delightful, particularly part 3, the second Mazurka, the serenade (which inspired "Night of My Nights" in Kismet) and the Nocturne. The Scherzo in A flat, composed in the same year and made famous as an encore at Rachmaninov recitals, is sometimes regarded as the eighth and concluding part of the Suite.
The version of In The Steppes of Central Asia for 4 hand piano is absolutely outstanding and it is amazing how close the piano sound, with the bass notes simulating the cellos and the high notes the flute, can get to the orchestrated version. At this price it is be worth having the disk for this one seven and a half minute offering. Hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff. Liszt and Borodin played this together at its premier in Weimar in 1881.
Paraphrases is fifteen short pieces for four hands, where one "pianist", who could be a non-musical person or novice, plays a simple motif with one finger of each hand, while the other person, a talented pianist, plays the accompaniment. Borodin's theme for the two fingers, as it were, is a simple polka. He composed some of the accompaniments himself, but other composers from the Mighty Handful, Lyadov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui also wrote accompaniments. Liszt was so impressed that he wrote a short Prelude. The Valse composed with Cui and the Carillon (for 3 pianists) composed with Rimsky-Korsakov are perhaps the pick of the bunch.
The four and a half minute Tarantella (1862) dates back to his time in Pisa and is breathtakingly beautiful, if a more European work. The Scherzo in E is Mendelssohnian; Borodin had been a great admirer of Mendelssohn in his early life.
The disk also contains an Allegretto in D flat, Adagio Patetico and Polka Helene, the latter being a revised four-handed version of Borodin's first known composition at the age of nine.
The French composers Ravel and Debussy had been much influenced by the music of Borodin and his friend Mussorgsky and it is fitting that the CD should end with Ravel's musical tribute to Borodin.
Marco Rapetti is superb throughout, coping equally brilliantly with both the more heavy-handed Russian style and the lighter up-and-down-the-keyboard compositions typified by the quicksilver Tarantella. He is ably assisted by Daniella De Santis and Giampaolo Nuti.
Brilliantly executed and recorded, I cannot recommend this disk too highly for lovers of quality piano music. If you like the Orcherstrated version of In the Steppes Of Central Asia you must add the piano version to your Borodin collection. All at an exceptionally low price.