If the print on this review goes blurry on your screen it’s because I’m still rubbing my eyes at the cast list on this astonishing trove of archive finds, unobtainable anywhere on line. The composer Dmitri Shostakovich was a capable pianist who sometimes participated in his own premieres. The people he played with were the elite of Russian music.
It was pretty clear that Billy Joel had run out of steam by 1993's River of Dreams. He had shown signs of wearing on its predecessor, Storm Front, but his trademark melodic gift disappeared on River of Dreams and his words, even performances, were bone-tired – he even called the last song "The Last Song (No More Words)." So, it was no great surprise that he did not rush to record a follow-up, and when he started murmuring toward the end of the decade that perhaps he wasn't interested in pop music anymore, nobody who paid attention could have been surprised.
Nikolai Demidenko is a celebrated piano virtuoso, considered a leading exponent of the Russian school of playing. His blend of technical brilliance and musical vision have earned him consistent raves since he first emerged on the international scene in the mid-1980s, and he has become a musical fixture in his adopted home of Great Britain, where he gained citizenship in 1995. Demidenko began playing before the age of five, learning on his grandfather's old, beaten-up piano. By the age of six, he was a student of Anna Kantor (Evgeny Kissin's teacher) at the Gnessin School of Music. An obstinate student who disliked scales and technique, Demidenko still made swift progress, and he eventually entered the Moscow Conservatory. There, he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, whom Demidenko credits with fostering his more individual qualities as a player, as well as ironing out the remaining wrinkles in his technique. Reaching the finals of both the 1976 Montreal competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow (where he played through an acute case of the flu) served as a final springboard to professional recognition.
John Dowland’s Lachrimae Pavans is considered one of the greatest works in the canon of English chamber music. Based upon his famous song “Flow My Teares”, the seven pavans – "Seaven Teares", as Dowland called them – present an extraordinary exploration of the contrapuntal and harmonic possibilities offered by the theme. In this remarkable recording, baroque violinist John Holloway creates a concert programme around the lachrimae Pavans. Threaded between Dowland’s masterpieces are works of other major composers of his era – Henry Purcell, William Lawes, John Jenkins, Thomas Morley and Matthew Locke. In bringing together these works of strongly contrasting colour and character Holloway and company give us a vivid sense of the great flowering of consort music which took place in England in the 17th century.
Shostakovich Quartet (Квартет имени Шостаковича) was founded in 1966 by Alexander Korchagin and Andre Shishlov in the Rafael Davidyan class at the Moscow Conservatory. A few years later, professor Sergei Shirinsky (legendary cellist, member of Beethoven Quartet) mentored the ensemble…
Nikolai Borisovich Obukhov (Nicolas Obouhow) (1892–1954) was a modernist and mystic Russian composer, active mainly in France. An avant-garde figure who took as his point of departure the late music of Scriabin, he fled Russia along with his family after the Bolshevik Revolution, settling in Paris. His music is notable for its religious mysticism, its unusual notation, its use of an idiosyncratic 12-tone chromatic language, and its pioneering use of electronic musical instruments in the era of their earliest development.