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Gramophone, August 2020

Listeners and pianists alike should try No 4 [Twenty Preludes], its content alternately brooding and passionate; No 8, whose harmonic subtlety veers towards late Brahms; No 13, imbued with undertones of Orthodox chant; and No 19, its tristezza marking suggestive of pensive emotion only just concealed.

This music requires advocacy such as it finds in Christopher Williams, probing its personality as surely as its technical mastery, his Steinway D accorded sound of realism and perspective…These premiere recordings of Barmotin are certainly worth investigating. © 2020 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2020

We know little regarding the life of the Russian composer, Semyon Alexeyevich Barmotin, apart from having had Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov as his mentors.

He had been born of peasant parents in 1877, his obvious talents sending the young man into the Court Kapella as a boy chorister, and it was there he was to be taught by Balakirev before he was accepted as a composition student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Whether he was a pianist of some standing is not clear, though his writing for the keyboard would indicate a strong affinity with the instrument. His career then seems to have been as a teacher, before he apparently died in 1939. The cause and place of his demise is unknown, not a rare event in those turbulent days in Russia. The extent of his output has equally been lost, though the two works recorded here would show a stylistic relationship and an in-depth knowledge of the music of Chopin. Why he only wrote 20 Preludes and not the conventional 24 is another enigma, though they do cover a wide range of moods, some being very simple and tender—the Thirteenth on D flat major being an example—while the Sixth in F sharp minor is dramatic and requiring outgoing virtuosity; the Sixteenth being a brilliant whirlwind . I would stop short of describing the whole work as a forgotten masterpiece, yet a score occupying four books, and lasting over fifty minutes, was no mean achievement, and it offers the listener and performer many rewards that famous piano composers of the era would have wished for. Though not much more than half the length, the Tema con Variazioni, his opus 1, was published in 1904, the Theme—quite short—offering the potential for being fragmented into the quite short 12 variations, the slow Eleventh absolutely gorgeous before the grand finale. We have to be grateful to the much experienced Welsh pianist, Christopher Williams, for these World Premiere Recordings, and I strongly commend the release to you. © 2020 David’s Review Corner

Records International, June 2020

Barmotin was a student of Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov. He has been neglected by the main Western music dictionaries, earning an entry only in the Biographical Dictionary of Russian/Soviet Composers published in the US in 1989. The absence of information about the circumstances of his death led the editors of this volume to speculate that he might have suffered a dire fate at the hands of the Soviet regime in the dark days of the 1930s. What survives of his music is impressive in both scale and content. These world premiere recordings are filled with color and contrast: the Tema con variazioni transforms its material into a multitude of moods to conclude in a symphonic march, while the 20 Preludes are striking in their sophisticated harmonies and heightened emotional impact. © 2020 Records International

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