3 Great New Russian Classics

For this post-turkey day show, we’ll feature three great Russian works: a great new recording of Rachmaninov’s masterpiece, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, then two Scriabin miniatures by the great Vladimir Horowitz and a popular new Ukrainian pianist, Valentina Lisitsa.

Rachmaninov represents the last era of great 19th century Russian romanticism. He followed in the footsteps of Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, and Rimsky Korsakov.  For a while Rachmaninov lived here in Beverly Hills, just a few blocks away from that 20th century firebrand, Igor Stravinsky. (Rachmaninov lived at 610 N. Elm Drive, where he died in 1943; Stravinsky @ 1260 N. Wetherly Drive, later moving to 1218 Wetherly Drive. Stravinsky lived in L.A. for 29 years, only moving to Paris at the very end of his life. He died in 1971).

Daniil Trifonov has just recorded one of the great interpretations of Rach’s great work. He is young, born in 1991 just as the Soviet Union was falling apart. There are many versions of the Russian warhorse, including ones by Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, but this one stands out. He performs with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by his longtime collaborator, conductor Nézet Séguin.

Vladimir Horowitz returned to Chicago in October 1986 to record a mixed bag of his favorite composers: Scarlatti, Mozart, Chopin, and his beloved Scriabin. We’ll hear one of the most beautiful of all Scriabin miniatures, the Etude in C# minor, one of Horowitz’ favorite works. The new album is a two-disc set called Vladimir Horowitz Returns to Chicago.

For his part, Alexander Scriabin (b. 1872 in Moscow, d. 1915) bridged both 19th and 20th centuries. Early on, he would sleep with Chopin’s music manuscripts under his pillow; by the time he composed PrometheusPoem of Fire in 1910 near the end of his life, he was using light shows to dramatize this fiery final work, much like arena rock or EDM today. Watch this 2010 re-creation of the work here:

To close we’ll hear a Scriabin nocturne performed by a Ukraine-born pianist, Valentina Lisitsa. She has millions of YouTube hits from previous performances of Mozart, Beethoven, Philip Glass, and Lizst. Her new Deutsche Grammophon album is calledScriabin: Nuances.

These are all new recordings and together they would make a nice little stocking stuffer for your classical music-loving friends. Highly recommended. Have some good vodka and caviar while you listen.





Tom Schnabel