Audiophile Audition

Amazingly, most of the music on this CD of delightful and stylistically varied piano miniatures has never been recorded before. Vladimir Rebikov (1866-1920), is a Russian composer who was one of the first to use the whole tone scale, as well as an innovator in using advanced harmony (seventh and ninth chords and open fourths and fifths), polytonality, and unresolved cadences. Stravinsky was aware of some of these innovations and used them in many of his works. But despite his experimentations, Rebikov never strayed from tonality.

The selections here vary from twenty-five seconds to nineteen minutes. The first two, The Devils Amuse Themselves and The Giants Dance “bear intriguing similarities to later iconic works by acknowledged composers,” notes pianist Anthony Goldstone. He’s referring to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in the first instance and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in the latter. Autumn Leaves is pregnant with Russian melancholy, probably influenced by Tchaikovsky. A Festival is animated and energetic, filled with ostinato figures. The longest work on this disc, Slavery and Liberty (1901) is one of three ‘tone poems’ that explored the meaning of art in an unstructured, stream of consciousness style. It’s passionate, filled with emotional extremes, and uses repetition creatively. Rebikov’s popular waltz from his music-psychological drama The Christmas Tree was played as an encore by many pianists. In Three Idylls , the composer uses white notes and note clusters long before Henry Cowell and Leo Ornstein. Pictures for Children was composed for his students to use for practice, mirroring Schumann’s Kindersczenen.

Adventurous British pianist Anthony Goldstone has done us a favor by discovering these engrossing miniatures and performing them with verve and understanding.

—Robert Moon