Mily Balakirev (1836-1910), leader of the Russian ‘Mighty Handful’ (‘Kutchka’) of composers was a brilliant pianist, improviser, noted conductor and champion of other composers. He incidentally studied math, became a civil servant/railroad clerk and was a huge animal lover. Although influenced by Chopin, Liszt, and Orientalism, his music is of a strong Russian character and is often technically difficult to play. Balakirev is surprisingly little-known today, but I try and encourage my students to listen if not learn some of his works. Here are a couple of recordings recently done at my studio by students Dakota Lichauco and Jessica Wang playing two beautiful gems from his piano works: Humoresque and Nocturne in D minor

Dakota Lichauco plays Mily Balakirev’s ‘Humoresque’
Jessica Wang plays Mily Balakirev’s ‘Nocturne in D minot’

Here’s a reharmonization of the popular Irish ballad ‘O Danny Boy’ (a.k.a. ‘Londonderry Air’) that I did using techniques such as modifying chord color as well as time/meter changes, inserting chromatic passing chords among others, to enrich a standard tune. (Song starts at 1:05).

(Recorded on an Estonia L-190 using the wonderful Earthworks PM-40 PianoMic system, straight into Cakewalk SONAR X2 Producer. Some very basic mastering was done to add a touch of eq, dynamics and reverb).