• Ilona Oltuski

Lavrova-Primakov Duo – Rachmaninoff- Duo Repertoire Concert And CD Release



  1. Barcarolle. Allegretto

  2. II.       La nuit… L’amour. Adagio sostenuto

  3. III.      Les Larmes. Largo di molto

  4. IV. Pâques. Allegro maestoso

Suite No.2, Op.17

  1. Introduction. Alla Marcia

  2. II. Valse. Presto

  3. III. Romance. Andantino

  4. IV. Tarantelle. Presto

Symphonic Dances, Op.45

  1. Non allegro

  2. II. Andante con moto (Tempo di valse)

  3. III.  Lento assai – Allegro vivace

Rachmaninoff’s First Suite, Op. 5, called Fantaisie-Tableaux for two pianos, was written in the summer of 1893, when the composer was just twenty years old.  He spent the summer with friends on a country estate near Kharkov.  After he returned to Moscow, he paid a visit to his former teacher, the great composer Sergey Taneyev, where he encountered another friend, adviser and ardent supporter – P.I. Tchaikovsky.  What transpired at that meeting is in Rachmaninoff’s Recollections, as told to Oskar von Riesemann.  Tchaikovsky was much impressed with the success of the Prelude (the famous C # Minor Prelude Op.3, that was written two years prior), as well as with the considerable amount of music his young colleague had managed to compose up to that point. “And I, miserable wretch,” he remarked, “have only written one Symphony!” That symphony, the last work to come from his pen, was the Pathétique. At that meeting, Rachmaninoff told Tchaikovsky that he was dedicating his Fantasie for Two Pianos to him and the plan was set for Rachmaninoff to premiere it and Tchaikovsky was to attend that concert.  Unfortunately, that never took place for later that year, Tchaikovsky passed away.

The plan worked. Dr. Dahl’s psychiatric treatment started Rachmaninoff back on the road to creating new music. Before long, he not only had enough ideas for his Concerto but there was sufficient material left over for his Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, which was completed in 1901 and published before the Concerto. Other works came in quick succession as well. These included the Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 19; the Cantata Spring, Op. 20; Twelve songs, Op. 21; the Variations for Piano on a Theme of Chopin, Op. 22, and Ten Preludes, Op. 23.

Considering the fact that it took root in Rachmaninoff’s mind simultaneously with the Second Piano Concerto, it is not at all surprising that the Second Suite for Two Pianos sounds as if it had been cut from the same cloth. Like the Fantasie, it is also in four movements: the first movement is a robust Introduction; the second – and most popular – is  a vivacious and quite exhilarating Valse; the third is a beautiful, poetic Romance; and the fourth is a brilliant Tarantella, which recalls more than any of its companion sections the style and mood of the Second Concerto. Rachmaninoff wrote an arrangement of his Symphonic Dances for two pianos simultaneously with the orchestral version. The first performance of this arrangement was famously performed by the composer, along with Vladimir Horowitz, at a private party in Beverly Hills, California in August 1942.  Rachmaninoff began to work on this piece, (his final composition) in the summer of 1940.  The premiere, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, took place on January 3rd, 1941. It received a rather negative reception that crushed Rachmaninoff.  The last 25 years or so have witnessed a strong growth in appreciation of this moody, many-layered and spectacularly orchestrated work, as testified by numerous recordings and live performances. Symphonic Dances continued Rachmaninoff’s obsession with the Dies irae, a somber melody drawn from the medieval plainchant Mass for the Dead.  He had previously quoted it in several works.  The Dies irae appears several times in veiled form in the first movement of the Symphonic Dances.  This movement (Non Allegro) begins quietly, expectantly, before introducing its bold, thrusting main subject.  The long, floating melody of the central section is probably one of Rachmaninoff’s most amazing lyrical creations. Within the framework of a symphonic waltz, the second dance (Andante con moto: Tempo di valse) presents a haunted vision of the ballroom.  It lies closer in spirit to Ravel’s La valse or the Valse triste of Sibelius than the joyous dance-poems of the Strauss family.  Introduced by eerie, muted fanfares, it turns on a troubled waltz tune. The spirit of the dance never maintains itself for long.  The music regularly slows almost to a halt, as if in nervous anticipation of impending catastrophe, or shadowed by memories of past horrors.  A mood of nostalgic reverie attempts to assert itself mid-way through, only to be shattered by the return of the opening fanfares.  The tempo accelerates through a passage of mounting hysteria, only to peak quickly, then end with equal abruptness.

The final movement is a grand witches’ sabbath that would make Berlioz or Mussorgsky proud.  Pervaded from the opening bars by the Dies irae, it seethes with manic, diabolical energy. A  reflective and lamenting middle section provides contrast. With the return of the opening material, a furious conflict breaks out between the Dies irae and a traditional Russian religious chant, Blessed is the Lord.  The chant finally gains the upper hand, and an Alleluia theme drawn from Rachmaninoff’s choral work Vespers rings out triumphantly.  On that note, Rachmaninoff concluded his career as a composer – and made his final musical/ philosophical statement – with a representation of the victory of his deeply held religious faith over the powers of darkness and death.  At the end of the manuscript score, he inscribed, “I thank Thee, Lord.”

Read about the artists here and in the following description:

In the few short years since the Lavrova/Primakov Duo was established—in 2010—the duo has performed extensively throughout the United States and has attracted superlative reviews. In 2011 the Duo established its own record label, LP Classics, an initiative committed to unearthing lost historical gems, presenting never-before released recordings, and enriching the discographies of emerging stars of a new generation.

Reviewing the Duo’s first release, Anton Arensky’s Suites for Two Pianos, veteran Fanfare critic Jerry Dubins wrote:

”Lavrova and Primakov take turns playing the Piano I and Piano II parts, but technically and tonally they are so well-matched, you wouldn’t know who was on first and who was on second unless you read the disc’s track listing. … Strongly recommended then for a dazzling display of two-piano works by two phenomenal pianists.” Natalia Lavrova has deftly combined an international performing career as piano soloist with a variety of pedagogical and arts administrative positions. Her riveting performances enhanced by her beguiling charm on the platform as well as her impeccable technical grounding have won the hearts of audiences around the world. Solo and orchestral performances have taken Ms. Lavrova throughout her native Russia to Canada, France, Hungary, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States, to include notable New York venues such as Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall. Ms. Lavrova has captured top prizes at the New Orleans, Isabel Scionti, Frinna Auerbach, Heidi Hermanns, Music Academy of the West, Silver Lake, and Senigallia International Piano Competitions. Upon her debut at the Leeds International Piano Competition, Ms. Lavrova was the youngest performer of 1996 admitted to the quarterfinal round. In her repertoire, she has over 30 concertos and extensive solo recital programs, as well as a substantial chamber music repertoire, including an ongoing partnership with her duo partner, pianist, Vassily Primakov. Her repertoire includes works of Arensky, Clementi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Liszt, Debussy, Milhaud, Godowsky, Saint-Saens, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Corigliano, Liebermann, Barber, van Eeden and many others. Born in Moscow, Ms. Lavrova entered the prestigious preparatory division of the Moscow Conservatory at the age of five and was subsequently accepted by The Juilliard School Pre-College Division as a pupil in the studio of Herbert Stessin. Ms. Lavrova went on to earn her Bachelor of Music and Masters of Music degrees at Juilliard, under the tutelage of Jerome Lowenthal. Ms. Lavrova is the founder and president of a very successful private school, Music School of New York City. She is a Yamaha Artist in Education.

In recent years, Vassily Primakov has been hailed as a pianist of world class importance. In the words of Gramophone, “Primakov’s empathy with Chopin’s spirit could hardly be more complete,” and the American Record Guide stated: “Since Gilels, how many pianists have the right touch? In Chopin, no one currently playing sounds as good as this! This is a great Chopin pianist.” Music Web-International called Primakov’s Chopin concertos CD “one of the great Chopin recordings of recent times. These are performances of extraordinary power and beauty.” In 1999, as a teen-aged prizewinner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, Primakov was praised by veteran music critic Donald Rosenberg in the Cleveland’s Plain Dealer: “How many pianists can make a line sing as the Moscow native did on this occasion? Every poignant phrase took ethereal wing. Elsewhere the music soared with all of the turbulence and poetic vibrancy it possesses. We will be hearing much from this remarkable musician.”

His first piano studies were with his mother, Marina Primakova. He entered Moscow’s Central Special Music School at the age of eleven as a pupil of Vera Gornostaeva, and at 17 came to New York to pursue studies at the Juilliard School with the noted pianist, Jerome Lowenthal. At Juilliard Mr. Primakov won the William Petschek Piano Recital Award, which presented his debut recital at Alice Tully Hall, and while at Juilliard, aided by a Susan W. Rose Career Grant, he won both the Silver Medal and the Audience Prize in the 2002 Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition. Later that year Primakov won First Prize in the 2002 Young Concert Artists (YCA) International Auditions. In 2007 he was named the Classical Recording Foundation’s “Young Artist of the Year.” In 2009, Primakov’s Chopin Mazurkas recording was named “Best of the Year” by National Public Radio. BBC Music Magazine praised the first volume of Primakov’s Mozart concertos: “The piano playing is of exceptional quality: refined, multi-coloured, elegant of phrase and immaculately balanced, both in itself and in relation to the effortlessly stylish orchestra. The rhythm is both shapely and dynamic, the articulation a model of subtlety. By almost every objective criterion, Vassily Primakov is a Mozartian to the manner born, fit to stand as a role model to a new generation.” Mr. Primakov has released numerous recordings for Bridge Records that include works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Chopin, Dvorak, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Philip Glass, Arlene Sierra, and Poul Ruders. Most recently, LP Classics released a Live in Concert album that includes works by Medtner, Schumann, Brahms’s Handel Variations and Ravel’s La Valse, and a Chopin Two-Disc Album of Three Sonatas, Four Ballades, and Four Scherzos. In 2012 Mr. Primakov became a Yamaha Artist.

An added bonus will be the fancyful concert attire of the Lavrova/Primakov Duo, provided by talented fashion designer Madeline Gruen. A graduate of the Pratt Institute, whose senior collection received the “Liz Clairborne Award – Concept du Product,” funded by the Liz Claireborne and Art Ortenberg Foudation, she is renowned for her romantic silhouettes and intricate embelishments. She currently works as one of the young, freelancing designers out of the Pratt Design Incubator, at her studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. All photo credits : Alex Fedorov

#BrammVanEeden #LowellLiebermann #Natalialavrova #VassilyPrimakov

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