Tsintsabadze/Russian Philharmonic/Yablonsky (Naxos)
Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924) is one of Russian music's more puzzling figures. A pupil of Taneyev and Tchaikovsky in Moscow, he eventually gravitated towards the nationalist circles around Balakirev in St Petersburg. He took Liszt as his primary model, and if you place his music alongside Mussorgsky or Borodin it can seem a bit un-Russian and faceless. His two piano concertos deploy the sectional single-movement form that Liszt favoured. The First (1890), with its lofty piano writing and dark instrumentation, is noble and grand. The Second (1909) is more Romantic and sentimental, with big climaxes reminiscent of Rachmaninov. The performances are terrific, with monumental playing from Shorena Tsintsabadze and orchestral contributions of persuasive beauty from the Russian Philharmonic under Dmitry Yablonsky. The filler is the Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes (1907), which is very difficult for the pianist (Tsintsabadze does wonders), if also harmonically four-square and melodically trite.
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