The National Symphony Orchestra in Ireland have a regular season of concerts during the winter months all of which are generally broadcast live on a Lyric FM. If you’re familiar with World Concert Hall, it’s usually linked from there on the date of broadcast. One day earlier this year, I was a bit late tuning in, much to my chagrin and disorganisation, and missed pretty much most of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto (the single most popular piece of music over the life of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame). The soloist was not one I knew, but he was good enough to do an encore. He played a cheerful sounding short piece which I liked very much, so I went doing some investigating. It transpired his name was name was Vyacheslav Gryaznov. The piece was Italian Polka, and it was his own transcription. I liked it very much and I searched some more and came across a transcription he did of Glinka’s Valse Fantaisie. I thought it was fantastic.
I also figured it was going to be challenging. It is for various reasons. But it is also glorious. I love the opening chords. I love the fact that I have to work very hard at playing parts of it, in places because it is a big stretch for me. I know all about the dangers of short fingers – after all, I’ve tried and failed to play the opening chords of Rach 2m (but I don’t care. I still do it). But there is something very passionate about the opening few bars. I can play them ad infinitum on the odd occasion that I have free time enough to do it.
I ordered the music almost immediately – it is published by Schott who have an online shop – and it makes me happy that it is up on the piano. I have a lot of sheet music – and I will possibly never get to play all of it in my life.
Every once in a while, something comes along and punches you in the gut and says “this is what you want to be”. In a way that no other piece of music ever has, this piece did that. It isn’t awe inspiring in the way that Rach 2 is – it’s awe inspiring in the way it simply makes you want to play.
The Royal Irish Academy inflicted some Bartok and Kabelevsky on me when I was a teenager. I’ve never really forgiven them for that because I found both of them really unappealing and I didn’t have much room for manoeuvre on that front. I’ve often wondered how things would have been if I got more Mozart and Chopin as a teenager than a Pentatonic Tune that wrecked my head when I was about 14. And I would have loved to come across some of what Vyacheslav Gryaznov has done now, if only to be inspired to keep going.