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8.220416 - LIADOV: Piano Miniatures

Anatol Konstantinovich Liadov (1855 -1914)

Anatol Konstantinovich Liadov was born into a musical family. His grandfather had been a musician and his father was, for eighteen years, until 1868, conductor at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, where his son was born in 1855.

The Rubinstein brothers, Anton and Nikolay, had established conservatories of music in St. Petersburg and Moscow in the 1860s. In this necessary venture they were opposed by the nationalist composers grouped round Balakirev and advised by the polymath Stasov. Anton had, with some justification, criticised the amateurism of the group, while Stasov, on the other hand, feared the professional regimentation of German-style conservatories.

Liadov learned music first from his father but was to benefit from the initiative of the Rubinsteins, entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1870. His early studies in piano and violin were soon replaced by lessons in counterpoint from Johannsen and in composition from Rimsky-Korsakov, although the latter were cut short when he was expelled from the class for unexcused absences. He resumed his study of composition in 1878 and graduated the following year with a setting of part of Schiller's Bride of Messina.

After the completion of his studies, Liadov was employed at the Conservatory as a teacher of elementary theory, later taking over the classes in counterpoint. He resigned in 1905 at the time of Rimsky-Korsakov's dismissal, after the student disturbances of that year, with which Rimsky-Korsakov had expressed some sympathy. He resumed his position when Rimsky-Korsakov was reinstated, with Glazunov replacing the former director.

Even as a boy of eighteen Liadov had made an impression on Mussorgsky, who described him as a new and unmistakably Russian talent and he collaborated with other members of the Mighty Handful of nationalist composers, the Five, in a light-hearted set of variations, Parafrazi, on a commonplace theme, a contribution that delighted Liszt, who used it as a demonstration piece for his pupils.

At first Liadov had received encouragement from Balakirev, then emerging from a period of silence, but still inspired by an uncomfortable religious zeal. In the 1880s, however, he became one of the first to join the circle of musicians assembled by Belyayev, serving as adviser on the publications that the latter paid for and sharing the responsibility for the concern with Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov after Belyayev's death in 1904. The association with Belyayev brought the inevitable hostility of Balakirev, who saw the activities of Belyayev as an intrusion on his own territory.

As a composer Liadov was less hard-working than he might have been. His tendency to procrastination was seen in his failure to provide music for Dyagilev's planned and advertised ballet The Firebird, a failure that gave Stravinsky his first important opportunity. Asked by Dyagilev how his work on the score was progressing, Liadov is said to have replied that matters were well in hand and that he had just bought some ruled paper. Dyagilev was to make use of some of Liadov's music after the latter's death in 1914, and much that he wrote seemed particularly well suited to the ballet. A group of pieces were used by Massine for his ballet Russian Fairy-tales in 1917.

Liadov was a talented pianist and during the course of his life he wrote a number of piano pieces. Short pieces of this kind suited his talent and his inclinations very well, since here, with limited exertion, he was able to show his mastery of form and expression in miniature. Among the first of these pieces was the set of 14 short miniatures under the title Birywlki or Spillikins, composed in 1876, while he was student at St. Petersburg Conservatory. In the same year he began a set of six pieces, completed in 1877, and including three Mazurkas, while 1878 brought a set of four pieces under the title Arabesques, with two further Mazurkas in the set of pieces of 1884 that form Opus 10. In Opus 11, a group of three pieces, came further Mazurkas, preceded by a Prelude.

Kukolki (‘Marionettes’), Opus 29, was written in 1892, another example of Liadov's gift for miniatures in the manner of some Russian Schumann or Chopin. Opus 40, written in 1897, consisted of an Etude and three Preludes.

The F sharp major Barcarolle of Opus 44 was written in 1898, while the Variations on a Polish Song, Opus 51, written in 1901, are characteristic of the composer's use of an existing melody as the basis of composition. Opus 64, written in 1909 and 1910, consists of four pieces, Grimace, Sumrak (‘Tenèbres’), Iskusheniye (‘Temptation’) and Vospominaniye (‘Reminiscences’), suggesting an awareness of the work of composers like Skryabin in its extensions of traditional harmonic practice.

Monique Duphil
Monique Duphil studied in Paris at the Conservatoire National Supérieur with Marguerite Long, Jean Doyen and Joseph Calvet, winning the Premier Prix in piano at the age of 15 and completing her studies there the following year with the chamber music Grand Prix. She undertook further study in Germany with Vladimir Horbowski and won prizes in four international competitions, including the Warsaw Chopin Competition, before embarking on a career that has taken her to more than fifty countries. She has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras that include the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Warsaw, Bern, Mexico State, Tokyo Metropolitan, Bavarian Radio, Sydney and New Zealand orchestras, under conductors of the distinction of Ormandy, Markevich, Dutoit, Maxim Shostakovich and Sanderling. As a chamber music player she has appeared with Szeryng, Ricci, Rampal, Fournier, and on many occasions in partnership with her husband, the cellist Jay Humeston.

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