Nicholas Walker

Balakirev Centenary Celebrations 2010

Nicholas Walker's Balakirev Festival was held in London at St John's Smith Square on 8th, 11th and 22nd November 2010 to honour the centenary of the composer's death.

This outstanding figure of the 19th century has been unjustly neglected. Innovative composer, brilliant pianist and important conductor, Mili Alexeyevich Balakirev (1837 – 1910) was a pivotal figure in the development of a Russian musical language, through a fusion of Russian folk song with romantic harmony.

His magnetic personality, powerful intellect and unsurpassed musical gifts inspired a number of younger composers, including Tchaikovsky, to go beyond the established norms of Western classical music; four composers in particular were especially influenced by Balakirev – Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov – and together they were nicknamed "the mighty handful".

Balakirev had a tendency to finish works many years after he had started them: his 2nd piano concerto, for instance, was begun in 1861 and not completed till 1910. The famous "Islamey" was however composed very quickly and became well-known. Characteristics that we normally associate with Rimsky-Korsakov or, say, Borodin have their origin in Balakirev's works, which he would play to his friends long before he ever wrote them down. This reluctance to commit to paper meant that Balakirev never received proper credit in his lifetime; one hundred years on it is now possible to do justice to this great composer.

Nicholas Walker and Mily Balakirev side by side comparison
Nicholas Walker & Mily Balakirev
  • Monday, 8th November, 2010
  • Joan Rodgers soprano, Nicholas Walker piano, Evelyne Berezovsky piano
  • Balakirev - Overture to King Lear arranged for four hands by the composer
  • César Cui (1835 – 1918) - The statue at Tsarskoye Selo, Desire, You and Thou
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) - Echo, My voice calling you, The hills of Georgia, What does my name mean to you? You and Thou
  • Balakirev - Symphonic Poem Russia arranged for four hands by F.A. Kanille
  • Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) - Night, Magpie
  • Balakirev - The link, Why? Should I brave lad, Georgian song, Over the lake, Whene'er I hear thy voice, My soul is yearning, Come to me, I loved him, Song, The rosy sunset fades, Whisper shy breathing, Song of the Goldfish, Hebrew melody, 7th November
  • Thursday, 11th November, 2010
  • Karelia String Quartet, William Cole double bass, Renate Sokolovska flute, Emily Ross oboe, Jonathan Evans french horn, Stuart Jackson tenor, Jocelyn Freeman piano, Vanessa Bowers soprano, David Gray piano, Nicholas Walker piano
  • Borodin (1833-1887) - Piano Quintet
  • Glinka - The Lark; Do not say
  • Trad (arr. Balakirev) - Burlatskaya; Svadebno-shutochnaya; Korolevichi iz Krakova
  • Balakirev - Selim’s song; Dream; Vision;
  • Glinka (arr. Balakirev) - The Lark; Do not say
  • Balakirev - Lullaby; When the yellow cornfield waves; Sleep; The cliff; I have come to greet you; Sunset;
  • Fréderic Chopin (arr. Balakirev) - Study in C# minor op.25/7 arranged for string quartet (world première)
  • Balakirev - Octet
  • Monday, 22nd November, 2010
  • Nicholas Walker piano
  • Glinka (arr. Balakirev) – Kamarinskaya
  • Beethoven (arr. Balakirev) - Allegretto from String Quartet op.59 no.2; Cavatina from String Quartet op. 130
  • Balakirev - Sonata op.3 (world première); Impromptu on 2 préludes of Chopin;
  • Chopin (arr. Balakirev) - Romance from Piano Concerto No.1
  • Chopin - Scherzo in C# minor op.39
  • Balakirev - Sonata in Bb minor
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