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Sergei Lyapunov composed his Études d’exécution transcendante (1897-1905) as a continuation of his idol Liszt’s celebrated cycle, which was originally conceived to run to 24 studies, not just the 12 Liszt completed. It therefore makes complete sense to pair these two complementary cycles, composed over half a century apart.

Nonetheless, the two cycles need to be judged on their own terms. The Liszt has many more rival recordings but Scherbakov’s account is a fine addition to the catalogue. While he cautions in the booklet that the studies should not be treated as mere display pieces, he relishes the technical challenges of ‘Mazeppa’ and ‘Wilde Jagd’. Yet he also finds the poetry in the cascades of notes in ‘Ricordanza’ and ‘Harmonies du soir’. This will not displace Dinara Klinton’s recording in my affections, but is a terrific set.

Scherbakov is his own main rival in the Lyapunov, which he recorded in the 1990s for Marco Polo. These new readings are more refined and full of dazzling playing: sample ‘Tempête’ or ‘Chant épique’ to hear what I mean. Lyapunov’s Russian-ness also draws a deeper response from Scherbakov.

On any other occasion, this might well have been my ‘Album of the Month’.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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