Selected Late-Romantic Russian Piano Music
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In music study, the term "Romantic" usually refers to the period of European music between approximately 1800 and 191 0. However, the term "Romantic" can also refer to style rather than chronology. For instance, Rachrnaninoff wrote Romantic music in the 1930's, a period of time much later than what most people would consider to be the Romantic period. The compositional characteristics of the Romantic period included flexible forms that responded to emotional demands, an exploration and extension of harmonic language, and emphasis on the significance of melody. From the pianistic standpoint, the instrument's singing qualities were revealed, reflecting the tendency of artistic expression to be very personal. In addition, composers often demonstrated great virtuosity and mastery over their instruments. The nationalistic characteristics of Michael Glinka and the styles of Western pianist composers such as FrkdCric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and especially Franz Liszt influenced the late-Romantic Russian composers in an immense way. At the same time, the late-Romantic Russian composers left a rich legacy to later Russian composers in their nationalistic elements, love of color, and virtuosity (such as found in Igor Stravinsky's Three Movements from "Petrushka " and Serge Prokofieff s Sonatas). A new element from the later composers is found in their percussive approach to the piano. Many late-Romantic Russian composers wrote piano music, including Char Cui, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky, Peter Ilich Tchaikowsky, Anton Rubinstein, Sergei Taneyev, and Felix Blumenfeld. For my recital programs, I selected works from this period by familiar composers such as Sergei Rachrnaninoff and Alexander Scriabin, as well as by less familiar ones, including Alexander Borodin, Alexander Glazunov, Mily Balakirev, Anatoli Liadov, Anton Arensky, Sergei Liapunoff, and Nikolay Medtner. I have divided these composers into three categories. The first category includes Borodin, Glazunov, Liadov, and Arensky. These composers usually excelled in composing smaller-scale character pieces of the salon style. The second category comprises Balakirev and Liapunoff, whose music is characterized by virtuosity. The third category includes Medtner, Rachmaninoff, and Scriabin, who were eclectic in their gifts, and wrote in large forms as well as miniatures.