Marc-André Hamelin adds another mystery name to his discography with this album of piano music of the almost unknown Russian Georgy Catoire (a French father explains the inauthentic-sounding surname). Catoire was one of a large number of composers who flourished in pre-Revolutionary Russia at the turn of the twentieth century, and his musical style is very much of that period. Primarily a miniaturist, most of his pieces can be described as mood pictures rather than as anything more abstract, his more sophisticated use of harmony giving his style a more cosmopolitan feel than some of his Russian contemporaries such as Liadov or Arensky. Perhaps he can best be compared to earlier Scriabin but without the neuroticism found in the latter’s work.
The modesty of Catoire’s output and its irrelevance to Bolshevik Russia have undoubtedly led to its neglect, but just as this music has attracted Marc-André Hamelin’s advocacy it will no doubt appeal to a new audience of listeners who can now rediscover it.