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Hyperion Records

APR5665 - Yakov Flier – Chopin, Kabalevsky & Rachmaninov
APR5665
Recording details: Various dates
Moscow, Russia
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 73 minutes 0 seconds

Yakov Flier – Chopin, Kabalevsky & Rachmaninov
Grave – Doppio movimento  [5'44]  recorded circa 1956
Scherzo  [6'59]  recorded circa 1956
Marche funèbre  [9'13]  recorded circa 1956
Presto  [1'26]  recorded circa 1956
No 2 in C sharp minor: Prelude: Lento  [4'11]  recorded circa 1952
No 5 in G minor: Alla marcia  [3'40]  recorded circa 1952
No 1 in C major: Andantino  [1'38]  recorded circa 1955
No 2 in A minor: Scherzando  [0'31]  recorded circa 1955
No 3 in G major: Vivace leggiero  [1'08]  recorded circa 1955
No 4 in E minor: Andantino  [1'37]  recorded circa 1955
No 5 in D major: Andante sostenuto  [1'47]  recorded circa 1955
No 6 in B minor: Allegro molto  [1'04]  recorded circa 1955
No 7 in A major: Moderato e tranquillo  [2'19]  recorded circa 1955
No 9 in E major: Allegretto scherzando  [1'04]  recorded circa 1955
No 11 in B major: Vivace scherzando  [0'41]  recorded circa 1955
No 12 in G sharp minor: Adagio  [2'58]  recorded circa 1955
No 13 in F sharp major: Allegro non troppo  [2'22]  recorded circa 1955
No 14 in E flat minor: Prestissimo possibile  [1'45]  recorded circa 1955
No 15 in D flat major: Allegretto marcato  [0'41]  recorded circa 1955
No 16 in B flat minor: Allegro tenebroso  [1'34]  recorded circa 1955
No 17 in A flat major: Andantino tranquillo  [2'10]  recorded circa 1955
No 18 in F minor: Largamente con gravita  [1'18]  recorded circa 1955
No 19 in E flat major: Allegretto  [0'46]  recorded circa 1955
No 20 in C minor: Andantino semplice  [2'30]  recorded circa 1955
No 22 in G minor: Scherzando: Non troppo allegro  [1'44]  recorded circa 1955
No 23 in F major: Andante sostenuto  [2'14]  recorded circa 1955
No 24 in D minor: Allegro feroce  [3'53]  recorded circa 1955

This is a recording from Appian Publications & Recordings Ltd (to quote the full title)—the label invariably more familiarly known simply as "APR".

Since its foundation in 1986, APR has won an enviable reputation as a quality label devoted predominantly—though not exclusively—to historic piano recordings. In particular APR has won countless laurels for the high standard of its 78rpm restoration work—"Transfers of genius" to quote one critic—as well as the detail and content of its booklets.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Yakov Flier was born in Orekhovo-Zuevo in 1912. Precocious musical abilities more or less guaranteed his eventual arrival in Moscow, the Conservatoire in particular, where he worked extensively with Konstantin Igumnov. After graduating from Igumnov’s class in 1934, Flier gave his first concerts, both within and outside the USSR, and began the near-compulsory round of competitions. He took first prize at the 1935 All-Soviet Competition of Performers and Composers before coming to the West’s attention during the following year, when he captured the top award at the Vienna Inter­national Competition of Pianists, primarily on the strength of a dazzling account of what was to be one of his most trusted warhorses, the Liszt Sonata. Fellow Soviet entrant Emil Gilels, four years his junior, took second prize. Two years later, with the full might (and expec­ta­tion) of the Soviet system behind them, Flier and Gilels were again travelling companions, this time as entrants in what is still regarded as one of the most prestigious competitions in musical history, the 1938 International Ysaÿe Competition in Brussels. Here fortunes were reversed. Gilels, among the youngest of almost 100 pianists from more than 20 countries to participate, captured first prize in sensa­tional style; Flier had to be content with third position behind the United Kingdom’s Moura Lympany. Some might have considered this to be a setback for Flier but it did nothing to detract from what was to be his obvious destiny: already appointed to the faculty of the Moscow Conservatoire (he became a full profes­sor in 1947) Flier went on to become one of his country’s most commanding and popular virtuosos.

During Flier’s 40 years at the Moscow Conservatoire – he taught there until his death in 1977 – he was widely regarded as the greatest teacher of his generation. From the very start his pupils were taught to play, listen and conduct themselves as if on the concert platform. Invariably seated at the second of two Bechstein instruments in his classroom, Flier expressed himself with a ready wit and telling comparisons, usually taken from within art and literature. He constantly encouraged his pupils to explore new repertoire. To their amazement, they found him to be totally familiar with every note of whatever they brought to class! In the main he was idolized by his pupils. Rodion Shchedrin, who studied both piano and com­position at the Moscow Conservatoire during the 1950s, was in awe from the first time he heard Flier: ‘His playing and his entire make-up simply overwhelmed us. It seemed to us that a god had come down to our school, enabling us to watch his hands, his profile and his carriage from just a few metres away.’ (Flier would also exert a powerful influence upon Shchedrin the composer.) Pupils who were to have prominent careers on the concert platform include Bella Davidovich (who came to Flier after Igumnov’s death in 1948), Irina Zaritskya, Viktoria Postni­kova, Vladimir Feltsman, Mikhail Rudy, Mark Zeltser and Mikhail Pletnev. The last is among a minority: even though the programme with which he won the 1978 International Tchai­kov­sky Competition had been prepared under Flier, Pletnev admitted that they had not had an easy three-and-a-half-year relation­ship – largely due to an erratic teaching regime caused by the excessive demands made upon Flier’s time and energies. (Pletnev was to enjoy happier times when, after Flier’s death, he worked with Lev Vlasenko. Paradoxically, Vlasen­ko’s daughter, Natasha, studied con­genially with Flier.) Within Russia today Flier’s standing is such that he remains much admired by many of the later generation of Russian pianists, notably Evgeny Kissin. Certainly there is no question that Flier, along with Sviatoslav Richter and Gilels, were the pre-eminent ‘big personality’ pianists of the Soviet era. Despite this Flier endured many setbacks, not least becoming ensnared in the political intrigues that were a poisonous part of everyday life at the Conservatoire. The victim of a trumped-up charge emanating, some maintain, from Yakov Zak, it was only thanks to the intervention of the venerable Alexander Goldenweiser that Flier’s life was spared, together with that of two other noted pianist/pedagogues also involved, Abram Shatskes (a pupil of Medtner who made the first Soviet recordings of his master’s First and Second Piano Concertos), and Maria Nemenova-Luntz. (Tragically, Zak was himself on the receiving end of a later conspiracy and lost his life as a result.) Flier was also forced to retire from the concert platform for a lengthy period (1949–1959) due to a serious hand injury.

Flier’s repertoire was all-embracing and dispatched with heroic confidence and stag­gering élan. He was particularly persuasive in Romantic music and it is said that Richter side-stepped Rachmaninov’s Concerto No 3 because he considered Flier’s interpretation to be incomparable. The most obvious hallmarks of Flier’s playing are a remark­able yet totally undemonstrative technique, a striking direct­ness in his music-making and an extra­ordinary dynamic range, as is evident throughout this programme, with hushed, delicately spun pianissimos followed, often in an instant, by deeply resonant fortis­simos. For someone of Flier’s stature his recordings are sadly few, due primarily to his enforced absence from performing as already mentioned. Aside from piano-duo recordings with Arnold Kaplin (Mozart) and Igor Aptekarev (Brahms), plus a couple of chamber recordings, including a classic version of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata with Daniil Shafran, there exist only a handful of solo LPs. The majority are devoted to mainstream repertoire (Mozart, Chopin and Schumann), with just two devoted to Russian/Soviet music: Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album and the Kabalevsky Preludes included here. Flier’s most familiar recording, the Khachaturian Concerto, is his only studio recording with orchestra.

All the items in this programme are making their first appearance on CD. Flier’s performance of Chopin’s Sonata No 2 is more an illustration of his credentials as an inter­preter of the Romantic repertoire than of a Chopin specialist. In devoting the rest of the programme to preludes we are able to hear not only one of Flier’s rare 78-rpm records (with Flier’s fortissimos almost too much for the microphone in Rachmaninov’s Op 3/2!) but also the premiere recording of Kabalevsky’s 24 Preludes. Comprising a prelude in each key of the tempered system and based on Russian folk songs taken from the Rimsky-Korsakov Collection, they deftly demonstrate Kabalevsky’s gift for effortless invention and his total understanding of the piano – the composer was, after all, a dazzling pianist and pupil of Goldenweiser. Equally important, each of these epigrammatic gems provides vivid and con­trasting glimpses of Flier’s incomparable art.

Bryan Crimp © 2007


Other albums in this series
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Heinrich Neuhaus – Beethoven, Scriabin & Chopin
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Alexander Goldenweiser – Tchaikovsky & Grieg
'Konstantin Igumnov – Schumann & Tchaikovsky' (APR5662)
Konstantin Igumnov – Schumann & Tchaikovsky
'Emil Gilels – Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt & Prokofiev' (APR5663)
Emil Gilels – Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt & Prokofiev
'Emil Gilels & Yakov Zak – Mozart, Mozart-Busoni & Saint-Saëns' (APR5664)
Emil Gilels & Yakov Zak – Mozart, Mozart-Busoni & Saint-Saëns
'Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky' (APR5666)
Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky
'Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 1' (APR5667)
Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 1
'Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 2' (APR5672)
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'Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos' (APR6005)
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