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CD Review: Perpetuum mobile
Ural Trio
Ivan Schepelski, Anatoly Chizhniak, Nikolai Chudiakov, bayans


Rondo-Capriccioso: W. Solotarjow (1942 - 1975)
Concert Fantasia on the Waltz, "Autumn Dream": A. Joyce/G. Schenderjow (1937 - 1984)
Echo of the Alps: N. Khudiakov (b. 1934)
Skipping Flame: M. Smirnov (b. 1930)
The Music Box: A. Ljadow (1855 - 1914)
Galop impromptu on a theme from Donizetti's opera L'elisir d'amore: M. Glinka (1804 - 1857)
March Miniature: P. I. Tschaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
Flight of the Bumblebee: N. Rimsky-Korsakov
Fantasia for Organ in f minor: W. A. Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Arabesque: J. Sibelius (1865 - 1957)

Musette and Tamborin: J. Ph. Rameau (1683 - 1764) & F. Mottl (1856 - 1911)
Final movement from the Orchestral Suite: J. S. Bach (1685 - 1750)
Variations on a French Christmas Carol: M. Dupré (1886 - 1971)
March Round Dance: G. Dinicu (1889 - 1949)/N. Khudiakov
Malagueña: E. Lecuona (1896 - 1963)/N. Khudiakov
Perpetuum mobile: N. Paganini (1782 - 1840)/G. Martinson (1910 - 1976)

total time: 60:37
released: 1988

label: Ural CD 001
Contact address: Dr. Herbert Scheibenreif
Resselgasse 2
2620 Neunkirches, Austria

telephone & fax: int-43-2635-69421

Review by Gregory A. Vozar:

No realm of human creativity seems exempt from the whims of fad and fashion. This applies as much to our focus on concert music as it does to hem lines, neckties and hairstyles. Over the centuries there has always been a segment of Western culture fascinated with the musical dernier cri. From one age to the next, various styles of composition have cast their fashionable spells over audiences, only to be relegated to a dusty library when tastes inevitably change. During the Nineteenth Century, a solo recital vehicle that enjoyed considerable vogue in both public and private performance was the piano or organ reduction of a concert or vocal work. When a new opera or symphony proved successful, composers and musicians rushed to publish their sets of variations and embellishments on its thematic material, presumably to cash in on the rush of popularity.

Nowadays these pieces are generally thought to be in questionable taste or regarded with dubious skepticism. Perhaps for these reasons they are less played than they sometimes deserve. The logic seems to be, "Why settle for an imitation when one can have the original?" Perhaps we creatures of the Age of Science can afford this attitude, for we have only to visit the local record shop to tap an almost limitless supply of concert or popular music. In the days before recorded sound, however, this type of composition served an important function. It was often at such a recital that many musically literate people had their first taste of new works. Unfortunately, it is also true that composers of lesser stature relied upon this sort of composition as a means of income, and their occasionally frivolous, formula-like approach gave these piano and organ pieces their poor reputation today.

When I first scanned the contents of Perpetuum mobile by the Ural Trio and saw a program liberally strewn with such musical adaptations (doubly adapted for bayan trio), I admit to having raised an eyebrow myself. After listening, I am happy to report that the Trio has chosen some rather fine pieces of this genre to present to the public. Without doubt, they have included a number of chestnuts and bonbons; what else can one call Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee (here played by three bayans in unison!) or Tschaikovsky's March Miniature? Yet, these familiar pieces become all the more enjoyable because they are balanced by some musical nutrition.

That nourishment comes chiefly in the form of Mozart's Fantasia in F Minor and Marcel Dupré's magnificent Variations on the French carol "Noël nouvelet." Both of these organ pieces were meant to exploit the idiomatic peculiarities of that instrument's tonality. Needless to say, the finest accordions wielded by the best musicians cannot quite compete with the organ's depth of sound, but the Ural Trio does an excellent job at interpretation, making these their best performances on the record. The reedy character of the bayan seems to suit the French Noël especially well. Although Mozart's Fantasia is familiar territory to me, I am still awed by its sweeping majesty and solemn, sonorous speech. It also tantalizes and leaves me with a sense of longing, for it is Mozart's only surviving large-scale organ composition. Its powerful utterance vies with the music of J. S. Bach and yet possesses a clarity that master seldom achieved.

A contender for the serious, in spite of its title, is Solotarjow's Rondo-Capriccioso. Nervous and restless, this piece has an earnest intensity, modulating almost frantically from key to key, as it mounts to near spontaneous combustion. The more music by this short-lived composer I hear, the more Mozartean he seems to me. His compositions for the bayan have unmistakable character and depth, and he seems to have an intuitive grasp of the accordion's inherent expressive capacity as a concert instrument.

Many of the selections on this disk are of Russian origin, and this is quite natural; not only because the artists are themselves Russian, but because the bayan is itself an accordion à la Russe. There is a harmony of form, fit and function amongst instrument, artist and composition. The pieces are all light in character, like Glinka's Galop Impromptu, based on a Donizetti theme or Liadov's Music Box; they are not quite frothy but possess a patina on par with gilded Lermontov china!

Of course, this disk would not be complete without the title track, Perpetuum mobile, by one of the most idiomatic of all the Romantic instrumentalist-composers: Nicolo Paganini. Known during his lifetime as eccentric and reckless, he possessed a violin technique that was as unorthodox as it was said to be diabolic! Paganini (along with Franz Liszt) seems almost a caricature of Nineteenth Century Romanticism. We hear his dizzy, endless melodic chain of hemidemisemiquavers pouring from the chromatic button keyboard of three bayans.

Messrs. Shepelsky, Chizhniak and Chudiakov, the three bayanists who comprise the Ural Trio, have been playing together since their group was formed in 1957. After such a lengthy period of artistic collaboration, their individual idiosyncrasies have melded into a wonderful group consciousness. The accompanying booklet tells us that they set the tone for concert bayan ensembles in Russia, their group being the first to perform as such in that country. Based upon their compact disk program, I can well imagine they enjoy what they do!

The Ural Trio offers the listener light concert music that, while not challenging, still manages to be a study in technical virtuosity. In our tense and overly frenetic world, there is certainly a place for a concert program that is simply meant to be enjoyed. Go ahead and savor the Mozart, Solotarjow and Dupré; then sit back and get ready to enjoy the ice cream, complete with a cherry and all the colorful sprinkles! I think anyone with a sweet tooth deserves the indulgence.

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