Anna Keiserman | Russian Mosaic

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Russian Mosaic

by Anna Keiserman

Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: I. Allegro non troppo
2:42 $0.99
2. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: II. Allegro
2:19 $0.99
3. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: III. Grave
4:27 $0.99
4. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: IV. Moderato
3:11 $0.99
5. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: V. Non allegro. Presto
2:00 $0.99
6. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: VI. Allegro con fuoco
1:52 $0.99
7. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: VII. Moderato
3:40 $0.99
8. Études-tableaux, Op. 33: VIII. Grave
2:50 $0.99
9. Sonata in G Minor, Op. 22
17:08 $0.99
10. À La Albéniz
3:35 $0.99
11. Troika
3:14 $0.99
12. Two Polyphonic Pieces: I. Two-Part Invention
1:55 $0.99
13. Two Polyphonic Pieces: II. Basso Ostinato
4:48 $0.99
14. Elegy
4:51 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Sergei Rachmaninov composed his Études-Tableaux, Op. 33, between August and September of 1911, the year after he completed his Opus 32 Préludes. While the Opus 33 shares some stylistic points with the Préludes, the pieces are nevertheless very distinct. Intended as “picture studies”, evocations in music of visual stimuli, Rachmaninov was never specific about what inspired each piece; he preferred to leave such interpretations to the performer and listener, suggesting they should “paint for themselves what it most suggests” Although Rachmaninov does not mention any programmatic associations in the titles of his works, he later made indirect reference to some of them. In many cases, however, Rachmaninov did not wish to disclose these associations. The composer himself said: “In the process of creating music, I am greatly aided by the books or poems I have read as well as by superb paintings. I often try to express a definite idea or event in my work without referring to the direct source of the inspiration.” It was only when Ottorino Respighi orchestrated five of the pieces for the Boston Symphony Orchestra that Rachmaninov supplied programs to the Italian composer. The pieces are written in the tradition of the étude, with each presenting distinct pianistic challenges for the performer. Interestingly, Rachmaninov himself experienced some difficulty writing them after composing several large-scale masterpieces, including the Third Piano Concerto and the Second Symphony. He stated that they “presented many more problems than a symphony or a concerto . . . after all, to say what you have to say and say it briefly, lucidly, and without circumlocution is still the most difficult problem facing the creative artist.” No. 1 in F minor is the earliest of all the Études-Tableaux. The ostinato rhythmic motion feels almost like a fatal inevitability. Indeed, it is not the melody but the rather the accompaniment which imbues the piece with energy and vitality. There is a distinct ambiguity of expression, with diverse images and unexpected contrasts in its emotional landscape. The guarded warning phrase, first uttered by the bass early on, draws direct associations with the Countess’ death scene from Tchaikovsky’s opera "The Queen of Spades”. No. 2 in C major depicts a turbulent and shifting landscape wrapped in a now darkening, now lightening, curtain of cloud and rain. From the incessant raindrops emerge wisps of song which dissipate, unresolved, into quiet questions. Rhetorical and unpublished by the composer during his lifetime, No. 3 in C minor consists of two sharply contrasting sections. A lugubrious and mournful speech gives way to a sparklingly sublime, seraphic enlightenment. Rachmaninov continued to derive inspiration from this piece, invoking the theme in his Fourth Piano Concerto. The passionate, extended theme from No. 4 in D minor is based on a dramatization of old Russian chant song. Perhaps heard as a somewhat passive echo of the Third Piano Concerto, for whatever reason it did not entirely satisfy the composer and was excluded from the originally published collection. In the masterly No. 5 in E♭ minor, dubbed “The Snowstorm", here too we encounter a scene from nature. The cold hollowness of the introductory descending thirds belies the imminent storm. Passages like gusts of wind swirl upwards, threatening to stormily wipe its path clean. We hear the tinkling of bells, snatches of lamentations and gloating dances flashing "soft-footed where the blizzard swirls" (Aleksandr Blok). The harsh, shrieking whistle arises like a kind of obsession, crumbling again into ashes and creating feelings of solitude and abandonment in a breathtakingly cold and icy world. No 6 in E♭ major evokes the festive atmosphere of a Russian country fair. The jubilant sounds draw associations with the epic genre images of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas, justifying the name “Yarmarka”, or “Fair”, bestowed upon the piece by the composer. The mournful and elegiac mood is profoundly felt in No. 7 in G minor. The final passage quotes almost directly from the tragic conclusion of Chopin’s first Ballade, which was perhaps not coincidentally written in the same key. The final Étude-Tableaux, No. 8 in C sharp minor, is a distant echo of the youthful famous Prelude in the same key. After an aggressive and fatalistic beginning, tensely resisted by protesting exclamations, a fierce and incessant battle ensues among the three different thematic elements. The heavy marching tread, the loud ringing booms and the restless flashes of lightning all merge into one monumental image. This final étude calls forth an association with Scriabin, in that a wide-ranging, consistently evolving subject is replaced by a group of brief, sharply outlined thematic fragments that give rise to vivid imagery. The music is full of foreboding, unleashing fears of unimaginable change and unprecedented insurrections.

According to Rachmaninov, Nikolai Medtner (1879-1951) was the greatest composer of his lifetime. An artist whose musical conception of the world was far different from that of his contemporaries, he wrote beautiful and incredibly challenging works for the piano. Medtner’s entire life revolved around his beloved instrument. Indeed, he considered the piano the only complete instrument. It is difficult to conceive of melody, harmony and rhythm as discrete entities, for they are remarkably integrated within his music. Medtner saw music as an indivisible unity proceeding in a logical sequence of events from the bare simplicity of the tonic itself to the greatest complexities of sonata form. To him music was essentially song, with melody as the basis of his construction. A theme is intuitively acquired – not invented – and the fulfillment of its potentiality becomes the composer's command. There also exists an intimate relationship between form and harmony: a fundamental harmonic sense is, for Medtner, a necessary key to the mystery of musical construction. It follows that the non-functional harmonies of the impressionists, the clashes of polytonality and the sound aggregates of atonality were alien to his musical thought. Thus Medtner's harmonic language remained within the boundaries of nineteenth century romanticism, and though harmony is perhaps his least distinctive feature, that is not to say that he did not employ the rules with certain individuality. The Sonata in G Minor, Op. 22, displays a high degree of integration and best qualifies as a single-movement structure with a fast-slow-fast design, analogous to the classical three-movement pattern but unified into a wholeness by a lack of discernible junctions and by the intimate thematic relationship of the fast outer sections. Probably composed in 1909-10, the stormy music is notable for its complex harmony, openly spaced chords and rhythms reminiscent of Scriabin's third and fourth Sonatas. A simplified description of the formal plan clarifies the structure as follows: after an introduction, "Tenebroso, sempre affrettando", comes a deftly moving "Allegro assai". An interlude, "Andante lugubre", occupies the central position. This is succeeded by another "Allegro assai" based on the opening material, which serves as a recapitulation-finale and brings the piece to a dramatic conclusion.

Born in 1932, Rodion Shchedrin hails from the generation of Soviet composers that includes Sofia Gubaidulina and Alfred Schnittke. His work is characterized by a diversity of musical genres and by scope of musical language, where he unifies contrasting elements of advanced avant-garde techniques and reflections of Russian folk music. His many distinctions include: USSR State Prize (1972); State Prize of Russia (1992); Dmitri Shostakovich Prize (Russia, 1993); Crystal Award (Switzerland, 1995); membership in the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (1976), the Academy of Fine Arts of the German Democratic Republic (1983) and the International Music Council (1985); Honorary Professorships at the conservatories of Moscow (1997), St. Petersburg (2005) and Beijing (2008); Composer of the Year with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (2002); Russian Federation State Order (2002); Russian State Order 2nd Class (2007); and a 2011 Grammy nomination for his opera The Enchanted Wanderer as “Best Classical Contemporary Composition". Shchedrin has remained an extroverted musician whose profile as a solo pianist has reinforced that of his career as a composer. Apart from his six piano concerti, he has produced numerous solo works for piano. Two Polyphonic Pieces are dedicated to Shchedrin’s teacher, Jakov Flier. Written as the required selection for the 1962 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, the two pieces were originally conceived as a set, even if they are often performed separately. Two-Part Invention is based on the repetition of a 7-bar theme, a polyphonic piece which presents two contrasting melodic ideas simultaneously and serves as a preamble to Basso Ostinato. The latter is a toccata-like tour de force, filled with torrents of order and chaos in search of a resolution Written in 1959, Troika bears some similarity to the piece of the same name in Tchaikovsky's Four Seasons, although the idiom is much more modern. The Russian word “troika” translates as a ternion, or a set of three. In this piece it might refer to a three-horse team pulling a sleigh, or perhaps a man dancing to a folk tune with two women. Shchedrin creates a wonderful programmatic effect suggesting the trotting of horses using an ostinato chordal motif, within a recurring 5/8 meter. Also written in 1959, À la Albéniz was dedicated to the famous ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya. The piece exploits the musical language of the nationalistic Spanish composer, Isaac Albeniz, invoking guitar-like sonorities, Spanish dances and vibrantly rhythmic flourishes.

Grigory Smirnov is a New York-based composer with international career and pianist. Born in Novosibirsk (Siberia, Russia) in 1982 he graduated from the Novosibirsk Conservatory and then moved to the United States where studied further at The Juilliard School. His music has been performed around the globe in major venues, such as Lincoln Center, Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center, Tanglewood Festival, Moscow Philharmonic Society and The Copenhagen Opera House, among others. His recent CD album “Dowson Songs • Chaconne”, released by NAXOS Records and named the “Critic's Choice” by Opera News magazine, features a large-scale song cycle Dowson Songs, commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation, and Chaconne for cello and piano. “Elegy” for piano solo was written in 2014.



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Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
"Russian Mosaic" is the very exciting debut album by Russian-born pianist Anna Keiserman. A collection of lesser-known solo piano works by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Nikolai Medtner (1879-1951), Rodion Shchedrin (born 1932) and Grigory Smirnov (born 1982), Dr. Keiserman provides an in-depth look at these four composers from her native country while dazzling the listener with her flawless and extraordinarily expressive playing.

Dr. Keiserman began her piano studies at the age of 5 at the Volgograd Music School. As a teenager, she received national awards and played her first recital at the age of 14. She debuted with the Volgograd State Symphony Orchestra at 15 and continued her professional education at Volgograd Serebriakov College. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance at Gnessin’s State Academy in Moscow. She relocated to the US in 2011 and received a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Minnesota and her Doctorate of Musical Arts from Rutgers University. She has won prizes at several national and international competitions and has toured as a soloist and as a chamber musician through Russia, Italy and Germany. She has served as an Adjunct Instructor at NYU Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions and as Adjunct Faculty at William Patterson University and Rutgers University.

The first eight tracks on the album are Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux Op. 33. Composed in 1911, they are varied both emotionally and stylistically - from big, bold and very demanding of the pianist to almost fragile and heartbreakingly sad, often all within the same piece! I especially like #1 in F minor, a bright and adventurous piece with a very dynamic left hand; #7 in G minor, elegantly mysterious and compellingly expressive; and #9 in C# minor with its occasional references to Rachmaninov’s earlier and very famous prelude in the same key.

Medtner’s is represented by his Sonata in G minor, Op. 22, a three-movement sonata that plays without a break between the movements. The first and third movements are very fast and intricate and the second is much slower, although it sounds as challenging as the faster movements!

Shchedrin is represented by four pieces. “A la Albeniz” was dedicated to ballerina Maya Plisetskaya and is a tribute to the Spanish composer of the title. “Troika” is lively and colorful. “Two Polyphonic Pieces” were written as the required selection for the 1962 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and were originally conceived as a set although they are often performed separately. Dr. Keiserman’s technique sparkles and dances all over the piano keyboard!

And then there is Grigory Smirnov’s “Elegy,” a piece I have fallen in love with - so much so that I bought the sheet music and am working on it myself! Very different from most of the other pieces on the album, the lyrical beauty of the melody and the emotional depth of expression are much more contemporary. It is absolutely the perfect piece to close this very exceptional album.