Three Russian Piano Sonatas

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These 3 famous Russian Piano Sonatas share that specific idiom of Slavic passion and melancholy, deeply rooted in the soil of Mother Russia, speaking of deep feelings of sorrow and joy.

Composers: Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Balakirev
Artists: Alexander Ghindin, Zlata Chochieva, Vincenzo Maltempo

Born in the small town of Votkinsk in 1840, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky achieved considerable renown during his own lifetime and is today hailed as one of the world’s best-loved composers. Having initially studied law before enrolling at the St Petersburg Conservatory aged 22, he is best remembered for his symphonies, operas and ballets; ranking among his lesser-known creations.

Rachmaninoff was not a great churchgoer, and in fact had stopped going completely by the time he composed his Vespers, and his other great a cappella work, the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom op.31. Nevertheless, he retained a love for and interest in the ecclesiastical chant, and perhaps the most famous of these, the Dies irae, appears in his First Symphony and the late Symphonic Dances of 1940.

Rachmaninoff, like his great predecessor Tchaikovsky, was very critical of his own music, but he considered the Vespers and his choral symphony The Bells among his favourites. The Vespers had to wait until 1965 for the first recording due to the Soviet anti-religion stance. Even then it was released for export only.

Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) was the founder of the group of Russian composers called ‘The Mighty Handful’. Together with Borodin, Rimsky Korsakov, Cui and Mussorgsky he helped create a distinctive Russian school of music that was not reliant on the influence of the Austro German school.

Studying at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, he won the praise of Glinka, and had an influence on the young Tchaikovsky. He wrote two symphonies, two piano concertos, several symphonic poems and many piano works.
Sadly, Balakirev suffered a complete nervous breakdown in 1871, and he withdrew from life, eventually emerging to take up a minor management role on the railways. In 1876 he began to compose again, and in 1883 was appointed as director of the Imperial Chapel. He retired in 1895, and continued composing, but by now considered old fashioned and was forgotten even by his old friends. However, one young composer, Igor Stravinsky had a soft spot for him, and pitied him as he suffered from bouts of depression.

Tchaikovsky: 00:00:00 Grande sonate in G Major, Op. 37: I. Moderato e risoluto (Alexander Ghindin)
Tchaikovsky: 00:14:10 Grande sonate in G Major, Op. 37: II. Andante non troppo quasi moderato (Alexander Ghindin)
Tchaikovsky: 00:23:28 Grande sonate in G Major, Op. 37: III. Scherzo, allegro giocoso (Alexander Ghindin)
Tchaikovsky: 0:26:31 Grande sonate in G Major, Op. 37: IV. Finale, allegro vivace (Alexander Ghindin)
Rachmaninoff: 00:33:15 Piano Sonata No.1 in D Minor, Op. 28: I. Allegro Moderato ( Zlata Chochieva)
Rachmaninoff: 00:45:20 Piano Sonata No.1 in D Minor, Op. 28: II. Lento (Zlata Chochieva)
Rachmaninoff: 00:53:26 Piano Sonata No.1 in D Minor, Op. 28: III. Allegro Molto (Zlata Chochieva)
Balakirev: 01:07:42 Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 102: I. Andantino ( Vincenzo Maltempo)
Balakirev: 01:14:30 Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 102: II. Mazurka. Moderato (Vincenzo Maltempo)
Balakirev: 01:20:04 Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 102: III. Intermezzo. Larghetto ( Vincenzo Maltempo)
Balakirev: 01:24:04 Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 102: IV. Finale. Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco (Vincenzo Maltempo)

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