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ClassicsOnline Home » LYAPUNOV, S.M.: Violin Concerto / Symphony No. 1 (Fedotov, Russian Philharmonic, Yablonsky)
Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov belonged to the second generation of Russian nationalist composers who were professionally trained and strongly influenced by Balakirev and his associates. His Violin Concerto has ‘a gorgeous solo part, big tunes, high energy, emotional Russian-romantic sweep, and a simply terrific cadenza…Maxim Fedotov sounds like he is having the time of his life’ (MusicWeb International). The first of Lyapunov’s two symphonies is a grand essay in the late Russian Romantic mould, a youthful yet masterful work of great charm and power.
By Barry Brenesal
By Steven J Haller
American Record Guide
By Martin Cotton
BBC Music Magazine
Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov (1859–1924)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 61 • Symphony No. 1 in B minor, Op. 12
Born at Yaroslavl in 1859, the son of a mathematician and astronomer, Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov had his early music lessons with his mother. On the death of his father, he moved with his mother to Nizhny-Novgorod and in 1873 began study at the local branch of the Russian Musical Society there. In 1878 he entered the Moscow Conservatory, where he was a composition pupil of Sergey Taneyev and briefly of Tchaikovsky, before the latter’s resignation, when his place was taken by Nikolay Gubert. His piano lessons were with Pabst and with Liszt’s pupil, Klindworth. After completing his studies of composition and piano and a brief period earning his living by teaching, he moved to St Petersburg where he became associated with Mili Balakirev, the self-appointed leader of the Russian nationalist group of composers. The effect of this tended to isolate Lyapunov not only from the rival circle of Belyayev, but also from younger composers who were now exploring very different musical territory. In 1893 he was commissioned, with Balakirev and Lyadov, to collect folk-songs in the Vologda, Vyatka and Kostroma regions, a project that resulted in a collection of three hundred songs, for thirty of which Lyapunov provided a piano accompaniment. From 1894 to 1902 he served as deputy director of the imperial chapel, his tolerance tested finally beyond endurance by Arensky, who had succeeded Balakirev as director in 1894, and from 1905 was director of Balakirev’s Free School of Music. He undertook the completion of the last movement of Balakirev’s unfinished Piano Concerto in E flat major after the latter’s death in 1910. The following year he gave up his position at the Free Music School, which had been dwindling in importance for some time, and joined the staff of the St Petersburg Conservatory, where he taught until 1917. In 1919 he joined the State Institute of Art, but his attempts, after the Revolution, to adapt to the ways of the new regime proved unsuccessful. After time partly spent abroad, in 1923 he settled definitively in Paris. Until his sudden death a year later he directed a music school there for Russian émigrés.
Lyapunov belonged to that second generation of Russian nationalist composers able to benefit from the professional training offered by the Conservatories and from the Russian sources of inspiration explored by Balakirev and his associates. His close association with Balakirev allowed the latter to exercise an influence that was not always for the best, and after the latter’s death he was able to experience a brief period of freedom as a composer. His orchestral compositions include two symphonies, symphonic poems, two piano concertos, a violin concerto and a Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes for piano and orchestra. Other works include songs and piano music, genres in which his achievement is more considerable.
Lyapunov’s Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 61, was written in 1915 and revised in 1921. It represents a form about which Balakirev had had reservations. The concerto opens with a sombre theme in the lower register of the solo instrument, which enters almost at once, with the direction Allegro appassionato. The theme is heard again, two octaves higher, followed by passage-work, as the orchestra develops the theme, followed by the soloist alone. The expressive second theme, marked Un poco più tranquillo, is in F major, introduced by the solo violin over a gently syncopated accompaniment and developed with the orchestra. A third theme, marked Scherzando, is introduced by the soloist, echoed by the orchestra, with triplet figuration in the solo violin and passages of technical display. This leads to a section in D flat major, marked Adagio, the expressive melody again entrusted first to the soloist. A return to the original key of D minor and to the first Allegro appassionato brings back the first theme, now in the orchestra, duly followed by the second theme, now in D major, and the scherzando material. A virtuoso cadenza leads to a final passage, marked Più mosso, agitato, giving the soloist no respite.
The first of Lyapunov’s two symphonies, the Symphony in B minor, Op. 12, was completed in 1887 and was written under the influence and supervision of Balakirev. It is clear from the latter’s correspondence that he took it upon himself to make various changes in the work, as it progressed. A motive that is an important element in the work is proclaimed at the start of the first movement, an Andantino, by the four horns of the orchestra, echoed by the strings. The theme continues in the following passage, marked Allegro con spirito. A second and related thematic element is introduced by the bass clarinet in a passage marked Poco più tranquillo and in D flat major, the melody then taken up by the first violins and cellos. The material is developed in a central section, before the due return of a version of the first part of the movement, followed by the second theme, now given first to the cellos, while the bass clarinet takes over the 6/4 sinuous cross-rhythm accompanying figuration, previously heard from the violas. The opening motive constantly recurs also in the closing Più mosso. The second movement, Andante sostenuto and in E flat major allows the first violins its principal theme, related in its intervals to the thematic element that informs the symphony and other thematic material is introduced. The familiar intervals return in the G major Scherzo, marked Allegretto vivace, with its contrasting B minor trio section, the theme of which is recalled in the final section of the movement. The Finale, with the direction Allegro molto, re-establishes the original key of B minor. Other related thematic material is introduced, leading to a final Meno mosso, grandioso in B major and a triumphant and exciting conclusion.
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