Anton Arensky: Suites for Two Pianos
Anton Arensky (1861-1906) was one of the brightest stars of the late 19th century Russian music scene and was one of the most influential figures in the promotion of two-piano music. In addition to his Four Suites for two pianos he also composed two sets of pieces for piano duet, later arranging one of them, his Children's Suite of eight canons, Op. 65, also for two pianos. Today piano-duo concerts occur quite frequently and are fully appreciated as part of the usual music-making environment. However, in Russia at the turn of the century this was hardly the case. Arensky's two-piano Suites are models of the romantic duo piano literature and clearly generated considerable interest at the time. It cannot be a coincidence that Rachmaninov's first two-piano work, his Russian Rhapsody, was written while still a student of Arensky in Moscow or that his Fantasie, Op. 5, for two pianos was completed only a year after Arensky's Suite No 2; interestingly Rachmaninov asked the German-born pianist and composer Paul Pabst, the dedicatee of Arensky's Suite and Professor of Piano at the Moscow Conservatory, to première the piece with him. Like all the best examples of two-piano music, Arensky's Suites make no compromises on the technical demands made of the performers. Anton Arensky's influence as a pianist, a composer, a conductor and a remarkable teacher to such future luminaries as Rachmaninov, Gretchaninov and Scriabin-has earned him a place of distinction in the history of Russian music. This release celebrates Arensky's 150th birth Anniversary.