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Stephen Coombs’s ‘Russian Piano Portraits’ series turns its attention to solo piano music by Anton Arensky, one of the more shadowy figures of the Russian pianistic pantheon. Bon viveur extraordinaire, Arensky lived life in Moscow to the full—and to the disgust of colleagues such as Rimsky-Korsakov—but he was also an important teacher whose pupils included Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Glière and Grechaninov. Indeed, it was Arensky, together with Taneyev (successor to Rubinstein as director of the Moscow Conservatory), who shaped a situation in 1880s Moscow which finally allowed the city to rival St Petersburg in terms of its musical culture.
Arensky’s piano pieces have an easy charm and lyrical breadth of melodic invention. They also show rare inventiveness. There is a quality that is both nostalgic and surprising, reassuringly familiar yet unconventional in harmonic and melodic construction. This music has the power to move the emotions, not perhaps in a dramatic or passionate way, but by its rather personal reflective quality.
“Coombs produces a lovely sound, is a powerful virtuoso, and is an elegant stylist. Hyperion has given him superb recorded sound”
“Intimately played and warmly recorded”
“An enchanting and beautifully played recital”
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