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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66877
Recording details: January 1996
Govan Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Release date: August 1996
Total duration: 31 minutes 18 seconds

'Sparkling performances … his playing is by turns gloriously extrovert and affectionately intimate … superbly recorded orchestral colours' (BBC Music Magazine)

'As in his four-disc set of Glazunov's complete solo piano music, Stephen Coombs is poetic and powerful. The rare Goedicke concertante makes a charming filler' (The Guardian)

'Stephen Coombs is on scintillating form throughout, turning even the most standardised of virtuoso gestures into remarkable utterances' (Piano, Germany)

Piano Concerto No 1 in F minor, Op 92

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Glazunov’s Piano Concerto No 1, Opus 92, is cast in only two outward movements, the second being an amalgam in variation form of slow movement, scherzando elements and finale (coda). The work’s opening, quite characteristically, is deceptively sombre. A cadenza-like statement from the pianist leads into a broad declamation of the main theme, ‘pathetic’ in the Tchaikovskian sense and immediately presaging the magnificent climactic restatement which it will eventually receive from the orchestra against broken octaves from the soloist. The second subject, in the unexpected key of E major, is notable particularly for its extremely close relationship to the famous slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2 (heard first in St Petersburg a mere three years earlier), of which it offers an almost exact paraphrase in its harmonic rhythm and melodic contour. Development is resourcefully achieved by rhythmic diminution and progressive combination of the themes. The recapitulatory climax serves also to fuel a rhetorically stormy conclusion in comparable textural terms.

The sequence of variations which follows presents a slow theme in triple time and in the key of D flat major (whose subsidence to the overall dominant pedal note C in the concluding pages mirrors the semitonal relationship of the first movement’s themes). After prolonged examination of the variation theme from many cunningly deceptive rhythmic angles the seventh variation presents a mazurka in A major, thus paving the way for a complete descending tonal cycle from F back to F via keys a major third from one another. The ninth and last variation ingeniously resurrects all the prime subject-matter of the first movement and combines it with the variation theme in a succinct but eventful peroration. Throughout the variations the balletic propensity is very much in evidence, as is unobtrusive mastery of all the purely academic problems which Glazunov set himself. The concerto is dedicated to Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938), whom Glazunov had heard on tour in St Petersburg during 1905.

from notes by Francis Pott © 1996

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