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Arts Desk
Every week, WRTI features a different album on the air. Learn more about them here.

Classical Album of the Week: The Art of Russian Transcriptions

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June 8, 2020. Since J.S. Bach’s time to the present, musicians have been irresistibly drawn to transcribing and arranging works that others have written. In our Classical Album of the Week, pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov transcribes works by his fellow Russian composers with deep understanding, and an unabashedly Romantic style.

Now based in New York City, Gryaznov began making transcriptions as a young artist performing with the laureates of Vladimir Spivakov’s International Charity Foundation, which helps launch the careers of young musicians. Gryaznov's transcriptions of familiar works like Alexander Borodin’s "Notturno" and Tchaikovksy’s "Waltz of the Flowers" embellish beloved melodies with virtuosic flourishes that add to the drama and character of each piece.

Sergei Rachmaninov was a renowned transcriber, not only of Bizet, Schubert, and --yes -- J.S. Bach, but of his own art songs. Gryaznov’s transcriptions of Rachmaninov’s famous “Vocalise,” “How Fair This Spot,” and “Night is Mournful,” match Rachmaninov’s treatments in sensitivity and graceful balancing of each melodic line.

For Sergei Prokofiev’s six-movement Suite from his 1932 ballet “On the Dnieper,” Gryaznov takes a more austere approach. Clear inner voices, haunting lyricism, and moments of motoric suspense bring out the genius of Prokofiev’s balletic storytelling.

Finally, let's not forget the “wow” factor. There’s nothing like a show-off moment in a breathtaking encore that captures an audience. And Gryaznov delivers brilliant embellishments with lots of panache in his transcriptions of Rachmaninov’s “Polka Italienne,” and Glinka’s “Valse-Fantasie in B Minor.”

Throughout the album, Gryaznov performs his transcriptions with technical finesse, wide dynamic range, sensitivity, and a sense of humanity. His is a valuable addition to the recorded and published (Schott) catalog of the art of the transcription.