Vassily Sapellnikoff was a pupil of Sophie Menter, a great piano virtuoso and one of Franz Liszt's favorite students. He was a highly respected concert painist and became a professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory in 1897.
Sapellnikoff was a close friend of Tchaikovsky's (it is rumored they were lovers), whose B♭ minor concerto he performed to great acclaim at his debut with the composer conducting. He was the first to record the work in 1926. This performance offers a view of the composer's own conception of the work as being considerably less a vehicle for technical supremacy than we are accustomed to today.
Tchaikovsky wrote, "A rare force, beauty, and brilliancy of tone; inspired warmth of rendering; a wonderful power of self-restraint; finish of detail, musical sensibility, and complete self-confidence. These are the distinguishing characteristics of Sapellnikoff's playing." High praise indeed!
Sapellnikov left a handful of recordings of solo works for piano. Some of these recordings are of relatively unfamiliar works by Russian composers: Alabiev, Balakirev, Liadov, and Sapellnikov himself. They give us a charming view of late 19th Century Russian Salon piano music and how it was played.
The more familiar Mendelssoh Scherzo is a refreshing delight, as are the pieces by Tchaikovsky and Wagner-Liszt.
Sapellnikoff Gavotte, Op 4 ~2 recorded in 1923
Alabiev-Liszt "Le Rossignol" recorded in 1923
Balakirev Mazurka 4 in G♭ major recorded in 1925
Liadov "Musical Snuff Box" Op 23 recorded in 1925
Mendelssohn Scherzo in E minor, Op 16 ~2 recorded in 1924
Liszt Valse Impromptu recorded in 1925
Liszt "Gnomenreigen" recorded in 1925
Wagner-Liszt "Spinning Song" from The Flying Dutchman recorded in 1925
Brahms Hungarian Dance 6 in D♭ major recorded in 1924
Tchaikovsky Humoresque in G major, Op 10 ~2 recorded in 1924
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto 1 in B♭ minor, Op 23 Stanley Chapple conducting the Aeolian Orchestra recorded in 1926
ia Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso. Allegro con spirito (beginning)
ib Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso. Allegro con spirito (conclusion)
ii Andantino simplice – Prestissimo
iii Allegro con fuoco
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