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the review of the work by Russian pianist, composer


Anton Arensky's Twenty Four Pieces, op.36. CD review in Fanfare Magazine, 2003

  Reviewing Stephen Coombs's Arensky potpourri a few years back, Lawrence Johnson damned the music with faint praise as “charming if lightweight morsels.” It would be foolhardy to call upon this 1894 cycle to challenge his description. True, the anonymous notes, quoting Arensky's pupil Goldenweiser, point to the work's exalted pedigree: It was “inspired by I. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier.” But the high-minded nature of the model was offset by an almost parlor-game approach to composition. As Goldenweiser describes it, Arensky “sketched 24 themes” in advance, and “placed each one… into a vase. Each morning he would pick one theme out of the vase and compose that particular piece that very day.” Nor do such titles as “Butterfly,” “The Top,” and “Springtime's Reverie” inspire confidence that the Bach influence runs deep. More The Art of the Cute than The Art of the Fugue.   Yet for all its slightness, it's far from negligible. The cycle opens with a gesturally bold, harmonically poignant, chorale-tinged Prelude with a paradoxical combination of nostalgia and hope that's unexpectedly enthralling. And while, as the cycle dances deftly through all the major and minor keys, we don't run into anything else on quite the same level, there's still plenty of memorable music here: the soft, harmonic caresses of the Nocturne (which could easily be taken for one of the earlier works by Arensky's recalcitrant pupil Scriabin), the odd dissonances of the sternly polyphonic “In Olden Style,” the verdant harmonies of the “Springtime Reverie,” and the magnificently turned phrasing of “Andante and Variation.” There's also a fair amount of generic note-spinning and of what Johnson aptly called “melodic swooning”; and the influences of Chopin and especially Schumann (the “March” cribs shamelessly from the middle movement of the “Fantasy”) sometimes show too clearly. But more often than not, the music is melodically inventive and full of harmonic and rhythmic surprises, and it's inevitably polished in a way that belies the almost casual way it was conceived.   Anatoly Sheludiakov (sic), born in Moscow in 1955, plays expressively, with a fine sense of dynamics and phrasing-and although he's a bit too heavy on “The Dream,” elsewhere he plays with an enviable sensitivity to color and touch. I certainly hope that Angelok1 has further recording plays for him. The instrument has been well recorded, too. All in all, a welcome release for lovers of the Russian Silver Age.

Peter J. Rabinowitz

Fanfare Magazine

Stravinsky's Piano Works. CD review on Classic at MusicWeb

  A disc featuring Stravinsky's collected works for solo piano is a very good idea. Although he spent a few years after the First World War developing a career as a pianist, in truth this was never a particularly significant part of his musical life; more a matter of earning a living when the royalties from his publishers had dried up.
Anatoly Sheludyakov is a pianist of secure technique who understands the sometimes brittle nature of Stravinsky’s musical style. Accordingly he can command the required level of virtuosity in the most technically demanding of these pieces, the Three Movements from Petrushka that Stravinsky rewrote from the original orchestral score for the young Artur Rubinstein. The performance is secure and at times glittering, though the recorded sound has less depth of perspective than the music really demands. Also the full-toned climaxes have less body than, for example, the much praised rival version by Maurizio Pollini (DG) that remains the benchmark recording.
  Next on the programme is the delightful The Five Fingers from the same year, 1921. As the title suggests, the approach here could hardly be more different, and Sheludyakov's well articulated performance communicates very directly. Perhaps his rendition of the Piano Rag Music seems a shade under-characterised, but it is clear-textured and makes its point. For all its brevity this is a highlight among Stravinsky's piano compositions. The other short pieces, some of them really requiring a second player at the keyboard, were presumably performed twice by Sheludyakov, one part at a time, and then pasted together in the studio. It is easy for the critic to be sniffy about these things (and I am) but if the result is satisfying on disc, then no matter. The engaging Serenade of 1925 is nicely characterised too.   The other major work, albeit only some ten minutes long, is Stravinsky's Piano Sonata, composed in 1924 and another project of his performing career. As one might expect, this is a neo-classical composition from this master of the genre. The highlight is the delightful Adagietto central movement.
  The disc is supported by useful documentation, though a more careful proofing process would have ironed out a handful of mistakes and inconsistencies.

Terry Barfoot
Classic at MusicWeb

The review of the work by Russian pianist, composer A.Sheludyakov.

Music of Stravinsky and Bartok. CD review on Classic at MusicWeb.

  In terms of repertoire this is an interesting and useful compilation. None of these pieces is among its composer's best known music, but each is representative of its composer's genius.
   To begin with Stravinsky, whose three pieces - the Suite Italienne, Duo Concertante and Divertimento - account for fifty of the seventy minutes of the recital. This music was composed during the early 1930s, intended for the composer's performing collaboration with the violinist Samuel Dushkin, for whom he would also write the Violin Concerto.
  The Suite Italienne is an attractive reworking of music from the neo-classical ballet Pulcinella that Stravinsky had composed more than ten years before. The idea of re-using material is hardly unique to Stravinsky. Here he brought freshness and vitality to bear on the new composition, which abounds in attractive tunes, most of them by the 18th century Neapolitan composer Pergolesi. The music suits the violin and piano combination particularly well, and there is nothing forced about the new context in which it resides. As for the performance, Ambartsumian and Sheludyakov make an effective combination, though the recorded sound tends to be dry in a way that is rather unflattering to the violin. This is emphasised by a tendency towards heaviness in the rhythms, though this may be more a matter of interpretation that technique. There is no question that the performance brings much pleasure and communicates strongly.
  Stravinsky described the Duo Concertante as ‘a musical parallel of pastoral poetry’, and behind the music there lurks the influence of ancient Roman poetry. The style is rather different from the neo-classical vein of the Suite Italienne, and it suits these performers rather better. There is a well made balance of poetry and activity, and a real sense of teamwork too. Again the recording is somewhat lacking in atmosphere, but perfectly acceptable.
  The Divertimento takes music from another existing ballet score, this time The Fairy's Kiss, on themes deriving from Tchaikovsky. Ambartsumian captures the spirit of that master immediately with a refined singing phrase that he then intensifies with warm weight of tone. The two artists are particularly successful in this appealing music.
  Bartók's two Rhapsodies both date from 1928, and are therefore products of that master’s maturity. These performers seem particularly at home in this repertoire, and the first movement of the rhapsody No. 1 is perhaps the highlight of the whole CD. The recording seems more atmospheric in the Bartók than in the Stravinsky, but that may be simply a response to the vibrancy of the playing.
  There are full notes in the booklet, though these tend to generalise rather than deal in detail with the music on offer.

Terry Barfoot
Classic at MusicWeb

Music of Balakirev, Lyadov, Borodin, Glazunov, Tchaikovsky. CD review by V.Barsky.

  Many play piano. Only few make others listen to them. This is the mystery of art, which was defined by Bach (and not without irony) as an ability to press the proper keys in the proper time.
  Those who understand this literally can easily reach peaks of skill and dexterity in profession. Besides, their success may be highly appreciated by managers of modern concert life. After all, the modern public has long been schooled to this very image of the musician-performer that circulates his skills of the high craft all along the cities and villages the world over.
   But this was not always the case. Originally other values and other aesthetic landmarks were customary. That is why we want to begin to talk about Anatoly Sheludyakov with the affirmation of paradox, but only at first sight: he is not quite a pianist, though he plays the piano all his conscious life and it is here that he has achieved recognition, both with professionals (which is confirmed by victories at contests, by honorable degrees, attention of mass media and other regalia), and with listener audience that feels the real artist far off.
  Anatoly Sheludyakov belongs now to a rare type of universal musician, able to realize his artistic ideas in most different realms. These may be singing in an orthodox temple, performing authentic folk songs with a folk music ensemble, in precise fine artistic formulating aesthetic and historic concepts of music creation or producing the so called instrumental theater in a “weak (low) style.” But his destiny is, to my mind, the composer's path. This is what exactly determines his way of hearing the world, aesthetic preferences, the manner of actualizing someone else's manuscripts.
  The composer's disposition of his is also peculiar. Perhaps, it is only the composer who can penetrate into the secret sense of conventional signs we have inherited from bygone times. It is only he who can see the work from the bird's-eye view and can demonstrate how it is arranged from within, as if it has been composed by the person sitting at the instrument this very moment.
  Russia possesses rich traditions of such piano performance. It's enough to mention the names of Rakhmaninov, Metner, Prokofyev, Shostakovich, Boris Tchaikovsky, who played opuses of other composers absolutely specifically. Maybe Pletuyov and Kollontay play this way nowadays.
  Russian music (the main sphere of musical interests of Anatoly Sheludyakov) is the lady willful in all respects. To play it one should know exactly not only what its author wanted to say but also to feel with all his heart the spiritual history of Russia, to sense specifically its boundless space, to look permanently for the answer to the first in the order question for our compatriots: What are we to do?
  As I see it the symbol of the performance manner of Anatoly Sheludyakov is embodied in his “Islamei” — the piece insidious in any sense. Its outer pianistic smartness conceals the dramatic undercurrent deeply rooted inside. To my mind no one has yet managed to discover how Anatoly Sheludyakov opens the casket with a secret. If one can attentively listen to or if one can hear.
  The compositions of Borodin, Balakirev, Lyadov, Glazunov, Tchaikovsky presented in the album do not often sound from the concert platform. Even in Russia. Sometimes modest in form, sometimes of salon-like in content, they can hardly serve a beneficial material for the activity of modern knights of Yamaha or Stainway. Because one should find in them that most secret sense. And bring it to the people.
  Anatoly Sheludyakov is one out of few who knows how to do it.


Vladimir Barsky

The review of the work by Russian pianist, composer A.Sheludyakov.