Lavrova - Primakov Duo: Four Hand Recital (CD review)

Piano music of Milhaud, Czerny, Corigliano, and Schubert. Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov, duo pianists. LP Classics 1010.

Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov are award-winning Russian concert pianists whose friendship and musical collaboration has led them to form their own record company, LP Classics, of which the present recording is their second release. Presumably “LP” stands for Lavrova-Primakov, but back in the old days it stood for “long-playing.” Maybe we can think of it as meaning “lovely performance,” certainly a good description of their collaborative effort on this four-hand piano recital.

The first item on the extremely varied program is Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (“The Ox on the Roof: The Nothing-Doing Bar”), Op. 58 by French composer Darius Milhaud (1892-1970). It’s a delightfully bizarre, satiric work that Milhaud based on a number of Brazilian choro, generally quick, festive tunes full of counterpoint rhythms. Le Boeuf runs merrily along with a series of wholly charming melodies, almost all of them with up-tempo beats that have one tapping along. More important, the pianists seem totally in accord with one another, despite switching parts several times. Their playing is quite spectacular at times.

Next up is the Grand Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F Minor, Op. 178 by Czech-born Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist Carl Czerny (1791-1857), a fellow noted for his piano exercises. Czerny actually wrote piano pieces for four, six, and eight hands, so this one is among his less-ambitious works. I tease. The track makes a good change of pace, much more serious in a dignified, old-fashioned manner. Yet given the virtuosic playing of Ms. Lavrova and Mr. Primakov, it sounds spirited and joyous, Lavrova in the primary piano part, Primakov the secondary. Czerny structured the piece in four movements, the first quite energetic; the second, slow section most delicate and ethereal; the Scherzo merry yet sensitive; and the Finale slightly nervous, troubled, increasing in intensity, and ending on a strongly optimistic note. The pianists have a good time with it, showing off their pianistic skills in an imposing display of musical gymnastics.

After that is Gazebo Dances for Piano Four Hands by American composer and teacher John Corigliano (b. 1938). Corigliano's four dances go from an overture to a waltz to an adagio to a tarantella and offer the pianists another fine vehicle for their impeccable showmanship. Of course, all four dances come with Corigliano's surprises, so don't expect anything run-of-the-mill here, either in the music or the playing.

The album concludes with the Fantasie in F Minor for Piano Four Hands, D.940 by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Written in 1828 and among the composer’s final works, the Fantasie is probably the most-important piece on the program. With Schubert we enter an entirely different musical world altogether, one filled with elegance and grace, which is exactly what Lavrova and Primakov provide, this time with Mr. Primakov taking the primary part. There is a thoughtful perception and insightful response to the playing that makes their interaction sublime.

With performing standards of the highest order and music of color and variety, the album should provide a refreshing listening experience for almost anyone, no matter one's tastes.

Producer, recordist, editor, and mastering engineer Charlie Post made the album in August 2012 at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center’s Concert Hall, Garden City, New York. Here, we find a comfortable, spacious, room-filling piano sound, a little wider than a piano might really sound live but certainly ringing forth with a beautiful tone and clarity. It's all rich and warm and dynamic, just as we'd want a piano to sound, with a pleasantly sonorous ambient glow.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

JJP

2 comments:

  1. Czerny was a Czech, and spoke the Czech language - he lived in Austria but his ethnicity is a Czech. Please note this in your article.

    ReplyDelete

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa