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Title:Respighi: 6 Pieces for Piano (Scherbakov)

Resphigi is famed primarily as a master orchestrator, but it seems that the same vivid awareness of timbral colour which served him so well in the Roman Trilogy, Ancient Airs and Dances, and The Birds led him to write some remarkably effective piano music. The 6 pieces for piano, written relatively early in Respighi’s career, show him deftly deploying a wide range of pianistic textures to magical effect. Scherbakov delivers a wonderful performance – perfect dynamic control, crystalline melodic lines, and some very intelligent handling of multi-layered textures (notice how he slyly modifies the big rolled chords in the nocturne, for instance).

00:00​ – Valse Caressante. Lilting and quintessentially salon-esque.
03:26​ – Canone. A canon at the octave. Rhythmically playful, as the trailing voice is two beats behind the leading. Starts off rather inward and reticent, before attaining a kind of luminous trepidation when it moves into Eb min. Then a swift move into D, triumphant, before returning into G min. Interesting to note how the voices are placed – at first the leading voice is in the RH, then both voices are in the RH, then they switch places in the D section.
06:10​ – Notturno. The emotional centrepiece of the set, and a minor masterpiece. A neverending melody poised above delicately shifting thirds. Impressionistic, with occasional drifts of aeolian colour.
10:14​ – Minuetto. A sly minuet whose strong third-beat accents make it sound like it’s in 3/2 time. At 10:21​, a passage in pleasingly archaic Renaissance-era fauxbourdon (melody harmonized with notes a 6th and 4th below), contrasting with the dorian-to-the-point-of-sounding-like-the-whole-tone-scale colour of the middle section. The chromatic LH voice in the middle section supplies an unexpected undertone of grating menace.
13:42​ – Studio. Shimmering, combining distinctly Romantic harmony with impressionist figuration. Some echoes of Chopin and Lyapunov (maybe even Alkan).
15:16​ – Intermezzo – Serenata. A gorgeous melody, occasionally gently nudged aside by occasional bits of filigree.


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