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Monday, December 14, 2009

Naxos Digital CD Release: Grammy-Nominated Pianist Adam Neiman Performs Anton Arensky



An album featuring an intriguing program of solo piano works by the brilliant 19th-century Russian composer Anton Arensky, recorded by Grammy-nominated pianist Adam Neiman for the Naxos label, was digitally released this month and is available for download. The full album release is scheduled for June, 2010.

The unique choice of repertoire made by Mr. Neiman, an acclaimed American soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, pays homage to an essential figure in romantic music of pre-revolutionary Russia whose talents were overshadowed by his better-known mentor Rimsky-Korsakov and the unavoidable influence of Tchaikovsky. However, time has allowed Arensky’s unique voice to resurface, gaining recognition more and more as a wonderful contribution to the great style of Russian romanticism, worthy of inclusion into the company of the great Russian masters.

“His piano music has a wonderful stylistic blend between the lyricism and refinement of Frederic Chopin and the melancholic harmonic mysticism of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff” writes Neiman. “ Arensky has a wonderful, unique style within the tradition of Russian romantic music, and I think listeners will be touched by the beauty of his piano writing when they hear some of these pieces on the recording.

This album joins Adam Neiman’s earlier release by Naxos of his world premiere performance of Jennifer Higdon's Piano Trio, live from the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Other recordings include an award-winning 2-CD solo recital set for the VAI label entitled "Adam Neiman Live in Recital", chosen by the American Record Guide as it's "Critic's Choice" for 2007 and 2008. A recording of complete Brahms’ Viola and Piano Sonatas for Deutsche Grammophon with violist Richard O’Neill is currently underway, scheduled to be released in 2011.

The CD contains Six Pieces, Opus. 53; Four Etudes, Opus 41; Twelve Etudes, Opus 74 and Pres de la Mer, Opus. 52; and is available for digital download at, among other.


Adam Neiman’s full statement about the recording:

“Anton Arensky was a pivotal figure in Russian romantic music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a teacher his most illustrious pupils included Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, and as a composer his works works spanned every genre. His piano music has a wonderful stylistic blend between the lyricism and refinement of Frederic Chopin and the melancholic harmonic mysticism of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff. It was, in fact, his close association with and the powerful influence of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff that ultimately served to bury Arensky's reputation under a cloak of obscurity, as the older masters panned Arensky as a cheap copy of themselves, a judgement that history has proven wrong. Arensky has a wonderful, unique style within the tradition of Russian romantic music, and I think listeners will be touched by the beauty of his piano writing when they hear some of these pieces on the recording. He didn't compose any large-scale works for piano solo -- only short etudes and concert pieces -- and thus I created a program cycle of four sets of short works. It is my belief that Arensky's piano music could easily fit into the standard repertory of every pianist who loves to play Russian music, and I hope this recording serves to help bring some added awareness to this deserving composer.”

About Adam Neiman:

American pianist Adam Neiman is hailed as one of the premiere pianists of his generation, praised for possessing a truly rare blend of power, bravura, imagination, sensitivity, and technical precision. With a burgeoning international career and an encyclopedic repertoire that spans over fifty concertos, Neiman has performed as soloist with the symphony orchestras of Belgrade, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Saint Louis, San Francisco, Umbria, and Utah, as well as with the New York Chamber Symphony and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C. He has collaborated with such conductors as Jiri Belohlavek, Giancarlo Guerrero, Carlos Kalmer, Uros Lajovic, Yoel Levi, Andrew Litton, Peter Oundjian, Leonard Slatkin, and Emmanuel Villaume.

An acclaimed recitalist, Neiman has toured throughout North America, playing in the major halls of La Jolla, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, Vancouver, Washington D.C., and at Caramoor and Ravinia. His European recital tours have brought him throughout Italy, France, Germany, and Japan, where he made an eight-city tour culminating in his debut at Tokyo's Suntory Hall.

Neiman's '09-'10 season highlights include his debut with the Orchestra Verdi of Milan, a major tour of Slovenia as soloist with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, a tour of New England performing as soloist with the Manchester Chamber Orchestra, as well as performances with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Chile, Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic, Santa Cruz Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Symphony in C, and Plano Symphony, among others. In addition, he will perform as a recitalist in Washington D.C., Seattle, Vancouver, and Chicago, and he will take part in prestigious festivals in Seattle, Manchester, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, as well as at the International Festival Cervantinos in Mexico. A major exponent of contemporary music, Neiman will perform works by Elliott Carter, Lera Auerbach and George Tsontakis, and he is to receive a concerto dedication by the renowned composer Benjamin Yusupov.

Neiman continues to expand his widely varied discography with his latest commercial release: a 2-CD set of Mozart's early keyboard concertos K. 238, 246, and 271 with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, distributed internationally by VAI Audio. Other recordings for VAI include his award-winning 2-CD solo recital set entitled "Adam Neiman Live in Recital", proclaimed by the American Record Guide as it's "Critic's Choice" for 2007 and 2008, as well as a DVD entitled "Adam Neiman: Chopin Recital".

Neiman has signed a contract with Naxos for an upcoming recording of solo piano music by Anton Arensky, due for digital release in November 2009 and full CD release in June 2010. Naxos also recently released his world premiere performance of Jennifer Higdon's Piano Trio, live from the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

In addition, Neiman will pair up with acclaimed violist Richard O'Neill for a recording of the complete Viola and Piano Sonatas of Brahms for Deutsche Grammophon, due for release in 2011.

Radio and television broadcasts featuring Neiman regularly span international airwaves, and his live performance of the Brahms Rhapsodies, Op. 79 at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival on NPR's "Performance Today" was nominated for a Grammy Award. Chosen as a featured artist by the Academy Award nominated director Josh Aronson, Adam Neiman appeared in the PBS documentary film "Playing for Real", which aired worldwide, and continues to air on the Bravo and Ovation networks.

Born in 1978, Neiman has captured the attention of audiences and critics alike since his concerto debut at 11 in Los Angeles' Royce Hall. Clavier Magazine wrote: "Adam Neiman gave a performance that rivaled those of many artists on the concert stage today...his playing left listeners shaking their heads in disbelief." At 14 he debuted in Germany at the Ivo Pogorelich Festival, and at 15 he won second prize at the Casagrande International Piano Competition in Italy, the youngest winner in the competition's history. In 1995 Neiman also became the youngest ever winner of the Gilmore Young Artist Award. The following year he won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and went on to make his Washington D.C. and New York recital debuts at the Kennedy Center and the 92nd Street Y. The Washington Post remarked, "A collection of Chopin's Waltzes and Nocturnes danced and stormed, and Prokofieff's Second Sonata enthralled with a dazzling display of inner voices rather than a mere display of muscle. This was playing of wisdom and light befitting an artist in the autumn of his career." Young Concert Artists additionally bestowed upon Neiman the Michaels Award and presented him in a critically acclaimed solo recital at Alice Tully Hall.

Two-time winner of Juilliard's Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, Neiman was honored with the Rubinstein Award upon his graduation in 1999, the same year in which he received the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Neiman's principal teachers have included Trula Whelan, Hans Boepple, and Herbert Stessin, and he has participated in master classes with legendary pianists Gyorgy Sandor and Jacob Lateiner.

In addition to his career as a concert pianist, Adam Neiman devotes time to composition. He has written works for solo piano, voice, chamber ensemble, and symphony orchestra. He frequently performs his works in recital, and his newest chamber work, Two Elegies for Clarinet and Piano, will be premiered in Mexico at the International Festival Cervantinos with Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinetist. In addition, he has composed the score for a documentary film entitled "Forgiveness" by the Emmy Award-winning director Helen Whitney, due to air over two nights on PBS. Mr. Neiman is managed exclusively by Isabella Puccini Artists Management, LLC.

About Anton Stepanovich Arensky: (compiled by David Truslove)

Born in Novgorod on 12 July 1861 Anton Stepanovich Arensky belonged to the generation of Russian composers, including Glazunov, Gretchaninov and Lyadov, who came to prominence in the closing decade of the nineteenth century. He was blessed with musical parents: his father, a doctor, was a keen cellist and his mother a fine pianist, and by the time he was nine he had already composed several songs and piano pieces. Between 1879 and 1882 he studied under Rimsky-Korsakov at the St Petersburg Conservatory, an institution founded by Anton Rubinstein just two decades earlier. Having completed his training and won a gold medal, Arensky took up a teaching appointment as one of its youngest professors at the Moscow Conservatory where his pupils included Rachmaninov and Scriabin. Whilst there, where Tchaikovsky’s encouragement was particularly beneficial, he gained attention as a conductor of the Russian Choral Society. His varied creative energies during this period included two symphonies, a number of chamber and choral works and his first opera, A Dream on the Volga, which enjoyed considerable success at its 1891 première.

From this year Arensky also produced an impressive Violin Concerto, a work contemporary with his two piano collections, the Six Esquisses and Six Pièces. In 1895 Arensky returned to St Petersburg when he succeeded Balakirev as Director of the Imperial Chapel, relinquishing this post six years later with a comfortable pension of 6000 roubles. From this time until his untimely death aged 45 his work was compromised by a life-style which Rimsky-Korsakov described as ‘a dissipated course between wine and card-playing’. To these last years, where his health was irreparably undermined by tuberculosis, also belong the twelve Etudes. Perhaps it was these pieces that Taneyev played at a soirée at Rimsky-Korsakov’s house less than a year after Arensky’s death in Finland in February 1906.

As a gifted pianist Arensky wrote nearly a hundred works for his own instrument across a composing career spanning almost 25 years. He appended his first opus number to the Six Canonic Pieces, a student work for piano of 1882 and his penultimate opus number, 74, to the twelve Etudes belonging to 1905. Unlike Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, the medium of the sonata held no interest for Arensky, whose creative impulse and easy command of keyboard textures found outlet in dozens of small scale and attractive pieces such as Caprices, Preludes, Romances and Etudes. In addition, Arensky also contributed to the scant repertoire for two pianists in his five Suites for two pianos. His early Piano Concerto in F minor (Naxos 8.570526) demonstrates his absorption of Chopin and Liszt (amongst others) whose stylistic influence, along with the lyricism of Mendelssohn and Grieg, was to remain part of his musical vocabulary for his subsequent piano works. Although Arensky did not extend the piano’s expressive potential, as Scriabin, Medtner and Rachmaninov were later to do, he nonetheless made a welcome contribution to the keyboard repertoire in numerous beautifully spun miniatures.

The Piano Concerto also appeared to presage a glittering future, and while his career flared briefly in the musical world of pre-Revolutionary Russia where he gained success as composer, conductor, pianist and teacher, these accomplishments have been mostly overlooked. Despite enthusiastic support during his lifetime from many significant admirers including Balakirev, Taneyev and Tchaikovsky his early promise never quite translated into lasting achievements owing to a combination of dissolute living and the lack of a distinctive personal style. These shortcomings prompted his erstwhile teacher Rimsky-Korsakov to remark ‘he will soon be forgotten’, a blunt observation from his memoirs Chronicle of My Musical Life published in 1909. This prediction has not proved entirely true as whilst there is still no biography in English, his Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky, and Piano Trio in D minor continue to hold a place on the fringes of the orchestral and chamber repertoire and confirm his innate craftsmanship and lyric gifts.

This gift for melody is readily apparent in his Six Pieces, a collection comprising contrasting movements in the shape of a Suite: indeed, the opening Prelude makes its stately progress in the grand French manner, its repeated dotted rhythmic patterns enlivened by expressive dissonances. An extended three-part Scherzo follows in which fast chordal writing embraces a calmer central section, its syncopated melody and arpeggio flourishes add to the movement’s playful spirit. In the charming Elégie sighing phrases reach a brief climax before yielding to a central passage marked by cross rhythms, its understated Russian melancholy typical of the composer. Echoes of Tchaikovsky can be detected in the spirited Mazurka while the Romance attempts to reach a deeper emotional expression. In the concluding Etude a more robust side of Arensky’s personality makes its presence known.

If the Six Pieces show Arensky’s wide stylistic awareness then the strongly characterised Four Etudes, Op. 41, reveal echoes of Chopin especially in the harmonic idiom, rippling left hand and long-breathed melodic line of the opening Allegro molto. Only in its use of 5/8 does Arensky show an original touch, a metre whose recurring use prompted Tchaikovsky to rebuke him in a letter in 1895 warning that his predilection for 5/4 rhythms threatened to become a habit and suggesting that ‘the otherwise beautiful’ basso ostinato in his Six Pieces, Op. 5, would have been better in either 3/4 or 6/4 time. Internal melodic lines feature in both the second and third Etudes; ‘hidden’ in the right hand in the first and shared between the right hand’s outer fingers amid constant arpeggio movement in the second. In the fourth Etude playing in sixths, rhythmic drive and (in a central episode) expressive phrases combine to make these studies more than just technical exercises.

These Etudes share with the Op. 74 set, written during his final year, an undimmed melodic facility and wealth of invention despite the composer’s rapidly deteriorating health. Indeed Arensky endows these richly varied Etudes with every pianistic resource making full use of his trademark quintuplet metre, ardent lyricism and, in the fourth Etude, daring harmonic turns. It is possible that Arensky intended to write a further twelve studies since these begin in C major and rise chromatically if somewhat irregularly through the keys to reach G sharp minor for the final Etude (although the eleventh is in A flat major). He also skillfully varies weight and texture and in the sixth a more flamboyant effect is heard. It is astonishing that these magnificent pieces have yet to be published.

Of his Op. 52 Six Esquisses, Près de la mer, the first is dominated by a recurring arpeggio flourish that prefaces each of the many falling phrases. There follows a rondo in five sections propelled forward by a Lisztian turbulence. The restraint of the third is all the more sharply felt with its poignant lyricism and undulating accompaniment. Its ‘calm waters’ give way to a Schumannesque movement, while the fifth comprises recurring ideas in short abbreviated episodes that never quite hide the salon prettiness. The last movement is an exhilarating affair, sustaining interest until the final triumphant bar.



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