The Return

Raffi Besalyan

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Original Recording Format: DXD
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Thoughts of home dominate much of the music pianist Raffi Besalyan performs on his album The Return from Sono Luminus.

Rachmaninoff’s “B-Minor Prelude” was inspired by The Return, a painting by Arnold Böcklin. Although it was written before his emigration the work was a constant companion in his exile, a favorite for his own recitals and a reminder of his years in Russia.

Similarly, the folk-inspired piano music of Arno Babajanian recalls a distant homeland. Based in Moscow for much of his adult life, Babajanian looked back to his native Armenia in music that mixed the folk idioms of his people with the virtuosic pianism of the Russian school.

And now Besalyan, an Armenian pianist based in the United States, brings their music together in a program infused with warm memories, evocations of far-off places, and reminders of earlier times.

Raffi Besalyan – Piano

Tracklist

Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
1.
Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3
03:51
2.
10 Preludes, Op. 23 - No. 5 in G Minor - Alla marcia
03:52
3.
10 Preludes, Op. 23 - No. 6 in E-Flat Major - Andante
03:11
4.
10 Preludes, Op. 23 - No. 7 in C Minor - Allegro
02:54
5.
13 Preludes, Op. 32 - No. 5 in G Major - Moderato
03:07
6.
13 Preludes, Op. 32 - No. 10 in B Minor - Lento
04:41
7.
13 Preludes, Op. 32 - No. 12 in G-Sharp Minor - Allegro
02:43
8.
Etudes-tableaux, Op. 33 - No. 6 in E-Flat Minor - Non allegro
01:48
9.
Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39 - No. 1 in C Minor - Allegro agitato
03:36
10.
Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39 - No. 5 in E-Flat Minor - Appassionato
05:04
11.
Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39 - No. 6 in A Minor - Allegro
03:03
12.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Theme - Andante
00:57
13.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 1 - Poco piu mosso
00:39
14.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 2 - L'istesso tempo
00:32
15.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 3 - Tempo di menuetto
00:38
16.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 4 - Andante
01:00
17.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 5 - Allegro (ma non tanto)
00:22
18.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 6 - L'istesso tempo
00:24
19.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 7 - Vivace
00:27
20.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 8 - Adagio misterioso
00:58
21.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 9 - Un poco piu mosso
00:57
22.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 10 - Allegro scherzando
00:39
23.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 11 - Allegro vivace
00:25
24.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 12 - L'istesso tempo
00:35
25.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 13 - Agitato
00:32
26.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Intermezzo
01:19
27.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 14 - Andante (come prima)
00:58
28.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 15 - L'istesso tempo
01:18
29.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 16 - Allegro vivace
00:30
30.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 17 - Meno mosso
01:05
31.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 18 - Allegro con brio
00:36
32.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 19 - Piu mosso, Agitato
00:32
33.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Variation 20 - Piu mosso
00:58
34.
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 - Coda - Andante
01:31
35.
Prelude
01:47
36.
Melody and Humoresque
02:10
37.
Elegy
03:31
38.
Vagarshapat Dance
02:14

Total time: 01:05:24

Additional information

Label

SKU

DSL92187

Qualities

,

Channels

Artists

Composers

,

Genres

,

Mastering Engineer

Daniel Shores

Mastering Room

Legacy Audio

Instruments

Original Recording Format

Producer

Dan Merceruio

Recording Engineer

Daniel Shores

Recording location

Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia

Recording Software

Merging

Recording Type & Bit Rate

DXD

Release DateDecember 9, 2016

Press reviews

Classical CD Review

The music of Rachmaninov is clearly dear to Armenian pianist Raffi Besalyan’s heart. This time round we hear a selection of preludes (from opp. 3, 23 and 32), Etudes-Tableaux and the Correlli Variations. They are popular works all, and well represented on albums, but Besalyan more than justifies his survey with playing that is passionate and involving – plenty of drama and plenty of poetry – but which is also precise, disciplined and intelligently paced throughout.

The program begins with a lollipop, the C Sharp Minor Prelude, op. 3/2. But from the very opening phrase it is clear that Besalyan intends to keep us on our toes. The pause after the first three chords is teasingly held far longer than the opening tempo suggests. Then the quieter textures enter, and the music gradually gets back up to pace. The structuring here is excellent, with the tempo and density of texture gradually increasing up to the climax. Within this, individual phrases are shaped, but with infinite subtlety, so as not to disturb the flow.

To continue, the G-Minor Prelude, op. 23/5, another favorite, and a chance for Besalyan to demonstrate a more strident approach. Louder dynamics never compromise Besalyan’s clarity of tone or precision of articulation, which gives these passages all the more impact. The quiet music, too, benefits from that impeccable control.

A real highlight of this album is the B-Minor Prelude, op. 32/10 “The Return”, from which the album takes its title. The prelude was inspired by a painting by Böcklin, and the entire album takes this as a theme. It shines through this performance, and through Besalyan’s ability to express Rachmaninov’s bittersweet nostalgia without ever wallowing in sentimentality.

The Etudes-Tableaux introduce more varied textures and moods. A highlight here is the Appasionato, op. 39/5, one of the more substantial and involving of Rachmaninov’s piano works, and an excellent showcase for Besalyan’s structural thinking. Despite the agitated and dramatic textures from the very start, he is able to shape and build the music, giving focus and direction to every phrase.

So too with the Corelli Variations. The theme is presented here with the utmost simplicity, giving no hint of the complexity and turbulence to follow. As ever, discipline and clarity are as evident as emotional engagement in Besalyan’s playing, and the contrast between each of the variations, while unmistakable, is never exaggerated, the better to articulate the work’s overall structure.

An unusual choice to conclude: four short works by the Armenian composer Arno Babajanian. We’re not far from Rachmaninov here, Babajanian drawing on the older composer’s work for textural and harmonic ideas. But the melodic material is Armenian, as lyrical as Rachmaninoff’s but less complex. There is less emotional sophistication here than in any of the Rachmaninoff, but that very directness itself is attractive.

The best of the Babajanian works is the Vagharshapat Dance, it has the most regional color of the four and the expansive piano textures are engaging, especially when rendered with the clarity and evenness of touch Besalyan brings. Attractive packaging, with plenty of pictures of the pianist, although sadly no reproduction of the Böcklin painting from which the recording indirectly takes its name. The liner essay is informative, erudite and intelligent (full disclosure: it’s by me).

Sound quality is good. The recording made at the Sono Luminus Studio with what sounds like an excellent Steinway D.

Recommended.

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