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BALAKIREV, Mili Alekseyevich (1837-1910)



  • Nicholas Walker, piano

This third volume of Balakirev’s complete piano music centres on the sequence of seven Mazurkas, infectiously lively pieces full of Slavic atmosphere and colour. The Humoresque in D major reveals his virtuosic flair whilst the Dumka in E flat minor uses improvisational elements to evoke the Russian landscape and the timelessness of village life. The Sonatina in G major was Balakirev’s last completed work and a joyous finale to a richly creative life. Reviewing Volume 2 [GP713], American Record Guide predicted that Walker’s series would become “the reference set for Balakirev”.



Mazurka No. 1 in A-Flat Major (1861) (00:04:03)
Mazurka No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor (1884) (00:02:27)
Piano Sonatina in G Major, "Esquisses" (1909) (00:05:26 )
I. Allegro moderato (00:02:02)
II. L'Istesso tempo (00:01:51)
III. Coda: Poco a poco più agitato (00:01:32)
Berceuse in D-Flat Major (1901) (00:06:30)
Mazurka No. 3 in B Minor (1886) (00:05:27)
Mazurka No. 4 in G-Flat Major (1886) (00:05:02)
Dumka in E-Flat Minor, "Complainte" (1900) (00:05:14)
Mazurka No. 5 in C-Sharp Major (1884 version, completed by N. Walker) (1900) * (00:05:27)
Rêverie in F Major (1903) (00:05:41)
Humoresque in D Major (1903) (00:04:53)
Mazurka No. 6 in A-Flat Major (1902) (00:06:21)
Piece in F-Sharp Minor (1851, 2nd version completed by N. Walker) (1851) * (00:03:19)
Mazurka No. 7 in E-Flat Minor (1906) (00:06:57)
Capriccio in D Major (1902) (00:09:43)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:16:29

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.



“Joyous and colourful pieces with an unmistakable Slavic tone… This series continues to establish Walker as the new reference for Balakirev's music.” – Musiq3

“Throughout the disc, you are conscious of the affinity and affection for this music from Nicholas Walker, one of Balakirev’s foremost champions. Though much appears unchallenging, it is a feel that is misleading, as it falls beyond the range of amateur pianists, with the Capriccio a virtuoso showpiece. As with the previous releases, I most strongly commend the disc to you.” – David Denton