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BALAKIREV, Mili Alekseyevich (1837-1910)



  • Nicholas Walker, piano

Mili Alekseyevich Balakirev was the influential leader of the Russian ‘Mighty Handful’ of composers that set the standard by which others were judged. Revealing both Balakirev’s admiration of Chopin and love of music with a deeply Russian character, this programme ranges widely from new discoveries such as the early Nocturne in G sharp minor to one of his last pieces, the heroic Seventh Waltz. There are also beautifully simple gems such as the Chant du Pêcheur and works of technical brilliance such as the Valse de concert and the magnificent and visionary Second Nocturne.


Waltz No. 1 in G Major (1900) (00:07:39)
Nocturne No. 1 in B-Flat Minor (1898) (00:05:30)
Waltz No. 2 in F Minor (1900) (00:05:24)
Waltz No. 3 in D Major (1901) (00:05:11)
Nocturne No. 2 in B Minor () (00:07:44)
Waltz No. 4 in B-Flat Major (1902) (00:05:59)
Nocturne No. 3 in D Minor (1902) (00:06:13)
Waltz No. 5 in D-Flat Major (1903) (00:06:55)
Nocturne in G-Sharp Minor () * (00:05:57)
Fantasy Piece in D-Flat Major (1902) (00:04:05)
Waltz No. 6 in F-Sharp Minor (1903) (00:05:29)
Chant du Pecheur (1903) (00:03:31)
Waltz No. 7 in G-Sharp Minor (1906) (00:06:09)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:15:46

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.


“I have no doubt that Walker’s series will replace Paley as the reference set for Balakirev and expect the journey towards its completion will be quite enjoyable.” – American Record Guide


“The skilful virtuosity of Nicholas Walker is wonderful...His communicative enthusiasm distinguishes him from Alexander Paley (a very good recording in Brilliant Classics), more inclined to work the decorative element and therefore necessarily more static. It also imposes itself, from the start, as a reference.” – Classica