This album of Arensky’s shorter piano works was previously issued in 2001, on Olympia 692. It’s varied in inspiration: The 12 Etudes of 1905 frequently pay tribute to France—No. 1 in C Major seems especially beholden to Fauré—yet No. 7 in E ? -Major displays the same interest in Wagner as the introduction to the slow movement from Arensky’s Symphony No. 2. If the 12 Preludes, Trois Morceaux , and Arabesques owe a great deal to Chopin and Schumann, the six Essais sur des rythmes oubliés display the composer’s fascination with metrical and rhythmic experiments. These appealed to his contrarian personality; as Tchaikovsky noted with frustration, whenever he criticized the younger man’s obsession with 5/4 time, Arensky would simply use it more often. It may be that Arensky was spurred to his best by such challenges.
Certainly the Borodin-like “Sari” movement finds him in excellent lyrical form, with a game of inversions in its central section, while the 5/4 rhythm and weak-accented primary theme of “Péons” might almost pass for a dance transcribed in the Balkans. Not everything is equally inspired on this album, but there’s more than enough in the 12 Etudes and the Essais sur des rythmes oubliés to make up for the longueurs that occasionally appear elsewhere.
Anthony Goldstone performs all of this music in fine fashion, with a connoisseur’s appreciation for its elaborate traceries, and shifting expressive patterns. This works especially well in the more intimate selections, such as the Morceaux , although the pianist isn’t slow to respond to the expansive vigor required in the “Strophe alcéenne” from the Essais , or the Chabrier-like charms of the Vivace movement from the Arabesques . Technically, he has everything well in hand. The runs and figurations of the Etude No. 6 in D Minor are performed with coruscating finish, and the rubato of the Arabesques ‘ Tempo di Valse is handled with admirable naturalness. There’s plenty of color here, and expressiveness that never sounds forced.
Sound quality is good. Divine Art deserves a nod of thanks for bringing this release, and Goldstone’s entire series devoted to piano works by the Russian Romantics, back into print.