Thursday, October 17, 2013

Liadov - The Enchanted Lake, A Fairy Tale Scene

Anatoly Liadov was a supremely gifted musician and composer that lacked the inner drive to write music equal to his potential. It wasn't that he was exactly lazy. He was kept busy as a teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory (one of his students was the young Prokofiev), a conductor that premiered Scriabin's first two symphonies, an editor that along with Rimsky-Korsakov edited the music of Glinka for publication, and an admired pianist.

His father was chief conductor of the Imperial opera Company, his grandfather was also a conductor. with many other family members involved in music, ballet and theater, so at a very early age Liadov was exposed to the late night gatherings frequented by musicians and actors. This upbringing probably contributed to his unreliability and a certain lack of inner drive.

Liadov was a conservative, very precise, meticulous composer who paid an extraordinary amount of attention to detail. This trait may have also contributed to his meager compositional output, especially with works for orchestra. His talent was more suitable for miniature pieces for piano.  But there were exceptions.

After Liadov married into money in 1884, his compositions got even fewer in number but it was after his marriage that he wrote three miniature tone poems for full orchestra, some of his finest works in any genre. Baba Yaga and Kikomora are based on folktales, while The Enchanted Lake has no direct inspiration besides Liadov's imagination. He called it a Fairy Tale Scene and described it to a friend:
“How picturesque it is, how clear, the multitude of stars hovering over the mysteries of the deep. But above all no entreaties and no complaints; only nature -  cold, malevolent, and fantastic as a fairy tale. One has to feel the change of the colors, the chiaroscuro, the incessantly changeable stillness and seeming immobility.”
The work is scored for a large orchestra minus trumpets and trombones. It is pure mood painting and conveys a sense of mystery that pleased the composer very much. of all his compositions, it was his favorite. The piece lasts under eight minutes, and contains some of the most beautiful music ever written .

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