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BALAKIREV, Mili Alekseyevich (1837-1910)



  • Nicholas Walker, piano

Balakirev’s Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 5 (1905) is the summit of his ambition to create a work that expresses the entire history of Russia. This highly original and most moving of all Russian Sonatas encapsulates all three Sonatas, having begun life as the Grande Sonate, Op. 3 (1855), here recorded for the first time, subsequently becoming the First Sonata (1856). This recording of the Sonata, Op. 5 is the first to have been made from the original manuscript, without the mistakes to be found in the two published scores.


Watch video trailer:


Piano Sonata in B-Flat Minor (1905) (00:25:29 )
I. Andantino (00:06:23)
II. Mazurka: Moderato (00:05:14)
III. Intermezzo: Larghetto (00:04:18)
IV. Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco (00:08:32)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 5 (1856) (00:20:33 )
I. Andante - Allegro assai, feroce (00:10:52)
II. Mazurka: Tempo di mazurka (00:03:53)
III. Andante (00:06:01)
Piano Sonata in B-Flat Minor, Op. 3, "Grande Sonate" () (00:30:45 )
I. Allegro feroce * (00:12:00)
II. Mazurka * (00:03:52)
III. Larghetto * (00:08:12)
IV. Finale: Allegro grazioso * (00:06:22)
V. Epilogue: Fuga * (00:00:44)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:16:23

The Artist

Nicholas Walker studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Moscow Conservatoire. Winner of the first Newport International Piano competition, he has performed with major British Orchestras, given recitals worldwide, and recorded for the BBC, BMG Arte Nova, ASV, Chandos and Danacord labels. He is also sought after as an imaginative and sensitive accompanist. Although his Beethoven performances have brought him special critical acclaim, and his performances of lyrical and late romantic piano music have also been highly praised, he is best known for championing the neglected leader of ‘The Mighty Handful’, Mili Alekseyevich Balakirev. In 2010 he organized the Balakirev Centenary concerts in London. He also teaches at the Royal Academy of Music.


The Composer

Balakirev was the self-appointed leader of The Five or The Mighty Handful, a group of Russian nationalist composers in the second half of the 19th century that comprised César Cui, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev himself. His own success as a composer was intermittent, largely owing to eccentricities of character and a tendency to make enemies through his own overwhelming enthusiasm and intolerance of other ideas. He was particularly opposed to the establishment of music conservatories in Russia by the Rubinstein brothers and was accused in his turn of amateurism.

Orchestral Music

Balakirev’s orchestral music includes concert overtures, two of them revised as the symphonic poems Russia and In Bohemia. His symphonic poem Tamara is based on a poem by Lermontov, and he completed two symphonies. His Piano Concerto in E flat major was left incomplete (it was subsequently finished by Lyapunov, who also orchestrated Balakirev’s oriental fantasy Islamey). He wrote two orchestral suites, one based on pieces by Chopin, and provided an overture and incidental music for Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Piano Music

Balakirev’s best-known work today is his oriental fantasy Islamey. As a pianist himself, he wrote a varied quantity of pieces for the instrument, including three scherzos, seven mazurkas, nocturnes and waltzes. His significant Sonata in B flat minor, eventually completed in 1905, after half a century, was dedicated to Lyapunov.



“Nicholas Walker serves this music with brio, without any loss of intensity” – Diapason

“All the playing is exemplary and Nicholas Walker…has added another powerful voice to the demands for a reappraisal of this neglected composer. ” – MusicWeb International

“He [Walker] has the full technical capability to handle all of the demands of this score, which also bodes well for future volumes in the series.” – American Record Guide

“The fireworks that Nicholas Walker set off here are fun and provide the perfect introduction to the popular power of the “neo Russian school”. ” – Spiegel Online