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This is a fascinating disc, the first volume of a cycle of the complete Balakirev piano works. All three of these works are in the same key, but such is the compelling nature of Balakirev’s writing that there is no sense of listener fatigue in a straight playthrough. Nicholas Walker, who provides his own booklet notes, is as eloquent in his writing as in his playing. Walker lavishes love on the gentle counterpoint of the opening Andantino in the Lyapunov-dedicated 1905 Sonata, and his gait is characterful in the ensuing Mazurka; yet the tissue-delicate Intermezzo is the clear highlight of his reading. The Op 5 Sonata (1856) is more compact. Walker perhaps underplays Balakirev’s nods to Mussorgsky, but triumphs in the almost Mozartian restraint of the finale. Finally, he gives a strong performance of the unfinished ‘Grande’ Sonata.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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