glinka piano forgotten records

Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
Complete Piano Works
Todor Petrov (piano)
rec. 2014, Studio de la Radio Nationale, Varna, Bulgaria

Listening to Mikhail Glinka’s piano works, here collected together complete for the first time, it comes as no surprise to learn that he was a very accomplished pianist. In fact, he’d studied briefly with celebrated pianist and composer John Field. Other influences I detected were Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Adolf von Henselt. Yet, listen carefully enough and you’ll hear a distinctive and individual voice. Don’t expect anything too profound, though. The music delights and charms and is essentially fashionable salon music. Much of it is dance-inspired, with generous helpings of quadrilles, polkas, mazurkas and waltzes. Then there are the more enterprising variations (2 CDs of them). The works span the years 1822-1855.

Themes from operas gave Glinka the material to fire up his imagination in constructing his sets of variations. He attended the premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena on 26 December 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan, and he took a theme from it to form the basis of the set of variations which opens CD1. It’s one of his most ambitious, together with the Variations on a theme from Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Mozart’s Magic Flute provided a theme for another set of well-crafted variations, and Todor Petrov gives us two versions of this score. An Italian romance, doing the rounds at the time, was another source for the composer to draw on. So we have the Variations on Benadetta sia la madre. Each of the variation sets is the product of a fertile imagination, intricate, exuberant and providing the pianist with plenty of rewarding piano writing.

Of the remaining works, Glinka largely composed pieces in genres immortalized by Chopin. So we have two nocturnes, mazurkas, a barcarolle, a bolero and a handful of waltzes. One of my favorites is the Nocturne in F minor Le Séparation, clearly betraying the influence of Field. Tinged with wistful regret and a profound sense of loss, it has a Russian flavour through and through. The other Nocturne is cast in the key of E flat major, and it brims over with magical lyricism. There are also three fugues, deftly constructed, each shot through with melodic interest.

I approached this set with no expectations and, having listened, am delighted to make the acquaintance of these attractive pieces. They are guaranteed to elicit from the listener affectionate smiles. Todor Petrov’s acute sense of style and commitment makes a compelling case, and I’m certain this release will win these works many friends. Unusually for Forgotten Records there are accompanying notes, a potted biography of the composer and some info on the pianist. These are in French only. This tremendously worthwhile release deserves nothing but plaudits.

Stephen Greenbank


CD 1
1. Variations en la majeur sur un thème de l’opéra “Ana Bolena” de Donizetti (1831) [11’52]
2. Variations en la mineur sur une mélodie russe (1826) [2’57]
3. Variations en mi majeur sur la romance de Cherubini “Benedetta sia la madre”(1826)[14’49]
4. Variations en mi majeur sur la romance de Cherubini “Benedetta sia la madre” (deuxième version) (1826) [14’22]
5. Variations en si bémol majeur sur un thème de l’opéra de Cherubini “Faniska” (1839) [4’53]
6. Variations sur deux thèmes du ballet  “Chao-Kang” en ré majeur (1831) [6’36]
CD 2
1. Variations en ut majeur sur un thème de l’opéra de Bellini “I Capuletti e i Montecchi”(1832) [13’19]
2. Variations en mi mineur sur une mélodie d’Aljabiev “Le Rossignol” (1833) [6’42]
3. Variations en mi bémol majeur sur un thème de l’opéra de Mozart “Die Zauberflöte”(première version) (1822-27) [8’12]
4. Variations en mi bémol majeur sur un thème de de l’opéra de Mozart “Die Zauberflöte” [44’44] (deuxième version) (1822-27) [5’32]
5. Variations en fa majeur sur un thème original (1822-27) [12’33]
6. Variations sur un thème écossais (1847) [8’13]
CD 3
1. Fugue n° 1 en mi bémol majeur (1833-34) [1’53]
2. Fugue n° 2 en la mineur (1833-34) [2’10]
3. Fugue n° 3 en ré majeur (1833-34) [3’03]
4. Polka enfantine en si bémol majeur (1854) [4’37]
5. Boléro en fa majeur (1840) [6’33]
6. Grande Valse Brillante (1839) [3’56]
7. Rondo en si bémol majeur sur un thème de l’opéra de “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” de Bellini” (1831) [6’45]
8. Valse en sol majeur (1839) [7’20]
9. Polonaise en mi majeur (1839) [4’54]
10. Valse-Fantaisie en si mineur (1839) [11’53]
11. Danse andalouse en sol majeur “Las Mollares” (1855) [1’05]
12. Polka en ré mineur (1849) [0’25]
13. Epilogue de l’opéra “Une Vie pour le tsar” (1849) [0’30]
14. Mazurka en ut majeur (1852) [0’49]
15. Valse de l’Adieu en sol majeur (1831) [0’52]
CD 4
1. Mazurka en la bémol majeur (1834) [1’18]
2. Mazurka en fa majeur (première version) (1831) [1’08]
3. Mazurka en fa majeur (deuxième version) (1831) [2’47]
4. Galop en mi bémol majeur (1840) [0’37]
5. Mazurka en sol majeur (1828) [0’54]
6. Cotillon en si bémol majeur (1828) [1’47]
7. Quadrille français (1828) [5’22]
8. Valse en mi bémol majeur (1838-39) [2’04]
9. Contredanse en sol majeur en 5 parties (1839) [3’31]
10. Mazurka en ut majeur (1852) [1’57]
11. Tarentelle en la mineur (1843) [1’12]
12. Prière en la majeur (1847) [8’50]
13. Souvenir d’une mazurka en si bémol majeur(1847) [4’19]
14. Barcarolle en sol majeur(1847) [5’10]
15. Nocturne en fa mineur “La Séparation” (1839) [3’27]
16. Nocturne en mi bémol majeur (1828) [3’36]
17. Extrait  de la scène avec Ludmila de l’opéra “Rouslan et Ludmila” (1852) [1’11]
18. Variations sur le thème de la “Ballade de Finn” de l’opéra “Rouslan et Ludmila” (1852) [2’24]
19. Contredanse en ré majeur (1839) [4’13]