Eduard Abramian’s 24 Piano Preludes

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

Eduard Aslanovich Abramian (1923-1986) played a central role in modern Armenian musical life as a teacher, pianist, and composer. Although his creative output was not particularly large, his 24 Preludes from 1958 add up to an hour’s worth of keyboard music. Unlike other composers whose 24-prelude sets are systematically ordered and feature one prelude in every key, Abramian is less doctrinaire about tonal relationships, and in fact omits D major and A minor while offering two preludes each in D minor and E-flat minor. More importantly, the music is both accessible and well written for piano, frequently using folkloric motives and gestures to launch more intricately-wrought textures and ideas.

No. 2 in C major begins with a curvy melody supported by a lilting left-hand ostinato, building into a full-bodied climax that suggests a great pops virtuoso like Roger Williams sweeping through Nacio Herb Brown’s 1933 hit song “Temptation”. No. 6’s spiraling passagework recalls Rachmaninov, while the melodic twists and turns are pure Borodin. For all of No. 8’s Russian-tinged modality, the rhythmic snap and fanciful right-hand flourishes could have walked out of Falla’s Three Cornered Hat.

Annotator Malcolm MacDonald calls No. 11 “the skittish dance”, but its brooding opening pages dominated by the lower registers and impassioned repeated chords suggest a dark, necromantic outing in Scriabin land. It contrasts to the lyrical No. 18 in G minor characterized by gentle chromaticism. Imagine Rachmaninov and Scriabin collaborating on a Prelude, and you’d probably get something like the concluding B minor.

Mikael Ayrapetyan’s assured technique and natural flair for his countryman’s aesthetic result in performances that effortlessly fuse poetic nuance and high-octane virtuosity. My one half-quibble concerns loud passages where certain high notes slip out of tune and the engineering turns strident and congested. Thanks to Grand Piano for continuing to uncover rare and previously unrecorded repertoire such as Abramian’s Preludes. Well worth hearing.



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Recording Details:

  • Mikael Ayrapetyan (piano)

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