Sergei Lyapunov (1859–1924): Térek, Nuit d’été and Tempête from 12 Études d’exécution transcendanteUnsuk Chin (b.1961): Piano Études (1995–2003) Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937): 12 Studies, Op.33 Nikolai Kapustin (b.1937): Five Études in Different Intervals, Op.68 Clare Hammond, piano As Clare Hammond writes in the liner notes to her thought-provoking selection of piano études, the genre, at its best, ‘combines the visceral excitement of technical display with expressive, coloristic and compositional ingenuity’. Opening with three studies from Sergei Lyapunov’s 12 Études d’exécution transcendante, composed around the turn of the last century, the programme demonstrates the tremendous developments that have taken place in writing for the piano over the past 120 years. Lyapunov modelled his ample études directly on Liszt’s set with the same title, and they epitomise the drama and passion of late Romanticism, fused with a distinctly Russian colour. In comparison, Szymanowski’s set of 12 Studies, written in 1916, are miniatures whose mercurial timbres and fleet textures suggest an affinity with Debussy’s études, composed one year earlier.
‘Twelve small piano pieces forming one whole, interesting technically, difficult’ is how Szymanowski described the set to his publisher. Born in the same year that Szymanowski died, Nikolai Kapustin initially set out to become a classical pianist, but at the age of 16 began to study jazz. In his early twenties he decided to focus on composition, and the Five Études in Different Intervals are characteristic of his output in that they fuse formal classical structures with jazz idioms. Of the four composers represented on this disc, Unsuk Chin is the only one who never trained as a pianist. Her six Études, the most recent set on this disc, are natural successors to those by Ligeti with whom Chin studied and reflect her fascination with virtuosity and the playful side of music-making.