Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2011 by Fred Flaxman

Program 179
"Sergei Lyapunov"

MUSIC: excerpt from the beginning of the finale of Lyapunov: Sextet, Op. 63 performed by The Dante Quartet with pianist John Thwaites and bassist Leon Bosch [Dutton Digital CDSA 6880, Track 4] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll explore the romantic music of my very latest compact discovery: the Russian composer and pianist, Sergei Lyapunov. We’ll hear two complete works by him: his superb, unusual, 35-minute long Sextet, Opus 63, and his Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes for Piano and Orchestra.

MUSIC: Fades out

Lyapunov lived from 1859 until 1924. He graduated the Moscow Conservatory in 1883, where he was more attracted by the nationalist elements in music of the New Russian School than by the more cosmopolitan approach of Tchaikovsky. He went to St. Petersburg in 1885 to seek out Mily Balakirev, the self-appointed leader of that movement, and became the most important member of that composer’s latter-day circle. And Balakirev’s influence remained the dominant factor in Lyapunov’s creative life along with Franz Liszt.

In 1893 the Imperial Geographical Society commissioned Lyapunov, along with Balakirev and Lyadov, to gather folk songs from the regions of northern Russian. They collected nearly 300 songs, which the society published in 1897. Lyapunov arranged 30 of these songs for voice and piano and used authentic folk songs in several of his compositions during the 1890s.

He succeeded Rimsky-Korsakov as assistant director of music at the Imperial Chapel, became a director of the Free Music School, then its head, as well as a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1911. After the Russian Revolution, he emigrated to Paris in 1923 and directed a school of music for Russian émigrés. He died of a heart attack the following year at the age of 64.

When you hear the beautiful music of Lyapunov, you may wonder why he is not better known. A one word answer to that question might be “Stravinsky.” Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird premiered in 1910, Petrushka in 1911, and the Rite of Spring in 1913. This was the modern, 20th Century music that was getting all the headlines at the time.

By comparison, Lyapunov’s Sextet, which we’ll hear now, was composed in 1915 and revised in 1921. Listening to this music without knowing who composed it or when, you might well guess that it was written sometime before the year 1900. In any case, like the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, who was also a Russian contemporary of Stravinsky’s, this romantic work deserves to be appreciated for what it is, whenever it was written.

The Dante Quartet from London, England, is joined in this performance by pianist John Thwaites and bassist Leon Bosch on this Dutton Digital compact disc release.

MUSIC: Lyapunov: Sextet, Op. 63, performed by The Dante Quartet with pianist John Thwaites and bassist Leon Bosch [Dutton Digital CDSA 6880, Tracks 1-4]

Sergei Lyapunov’s Sextet, Opus 63, was performed by the Dante Quartet with pianist John Thwaites and bassist Leon Bosch.

Lyapunov enjoyed a successful career as a pianist as well as a composer. From 1904 he also made appearances as a conductor. He wrote two piano concertos and a Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, which was also for piano and orchestra. Like Lyapunov’s piano concertos, it reflects the influence of Franz Liszt, particularly in the virtuoso piano writing.

Let’s hear that work now as performed by pianist Hamish Milne with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins on a Hyperion compact disc.

MUSIC: Lyapunov: Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, Op. 28 performed by the pianist Hamish Milne with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins [Hyperion CDA67326, tracks 6 - 9] 

Sergei Lyapunov’s Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, Op. 28 performed by the pianist Hamish Milne with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

And that concludes this hour devoted to the music of the Russian composer Sergei Lyapunov. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening. Please join me again next time for more Compact Discoveries!

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you.

Total Program Timing: 59:20