Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring & other works for Piano Duo
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Cat No: CDA68189
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 2nd February 2018
WorksCircus Polka (arr. Victor Babin for 2 pianos)
Concerto for two pianos
Madrid (arr. Soulima Stravinsky)
Tango (arr. for 2 pianos)
The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps) (piano duet)
ArtistsMarc-Andre Hamelin (piano)
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
1Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #1 The Kiss Of The Earth
2Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #2 Augurs of Spring
3Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #3 Game Of Abduction
4Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #4 Spring Rounds
5Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #5 Game Of The 2 Rival Tribes
6Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #6 Procession Of The Oldest & Wisest One
7Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #7 The Kiss Of The Earth
8Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1 #8 Dancing Out Of The Earth
9Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #1 The Great Sacrifice
10Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #2 Mystic Circle Of The Young Girls
11Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #3 Glorification Of The Chosen One
12Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #4 Evocation Of The Ancestors
13Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #5 Ritual Action Of The Ancestors
14Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 2 #6 Sacrificial Dance
15Stravinsky: Concerto For 2 Solo Pianos - 1. Con Moto
16Stravinsky: Concerto For 2 Solo Pianos - 2. Notturno: Adagietto
17Stravinsky: Concerto For 2 Solo Pianos - 3. Quattro Variazioni
18Stravinsky: Concerto For 2 Solo Pianos - 4. Preludio & Fuga
21Stravinsky/Babin: Circus Polka
Like other performers of the duet version in recent years, Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin choose to play at separate pianos, thus not only giving one another valuable extra elbow room but also enabling the occasional exchange or even sharing of lines as well as incorporating a myriad of minor but telling modifications to maximise the music’s physical impact. While the account from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and François-Frédéric Guy on Chandos takes the opportunity to focus on the poetry of the score, Andsnes and Hamelin present a far more visceral account, brilliantly incisive but weighty where needed, with perfectly judged tempi, which builds to thrilling climaxes in both of the ballet’s two parts. Their decision to set opposite rather than alongside one another pays huge dividends, too: just listen to how Andsnes (playing the Primo part to the listener’s left) reinforces the accented chords in the Auguries of Spring (track 2)! Nor do they focus solely on the Rite’s abundant thrills and spills: at the opening of Part 2, where Bavouzet on Chandos chooses the optional tremolo in the right hand part, Andsnes here plays things straight, enhancing the sense of becalmed mystery. His cool-headedness and Hamelin’s energetic virtuosity seem to be mutually infective, drawing the very best out of both players. Their command of detail, coupled with a sure sense of the music’s narrative architecture, takes this performance straight to the top of the pile for those wanting to complement their favourite orchestral recordings of the Rite.
And it’s the coupling that’s decisive here: a stunningly vivid account of the Concerto for Two Solo Pianos (1932-35). Andsnes and Hamelin bring a welcome sense of involvement to the music’s cool neoclassical lines. The first movement positively bursts with energy, while the Notturno second movement has a magical sense of Stravinskian poise wholly absent from the composer’s own 1938 recording with his son Soulima. The concluding Prelude and Fugue is once again perfectly paced and ‘voiced’, clarity and momentum combined in well-nigh perfect balance, with playing of substantial tone that emphasises the composition’s Beethovenian roots. Stravinsky himself might have objected to the palpable expressive commitment of this performance, but his views on his own music were both controversial and frequently changeable: Andsnes and Hamelin not only present a recording for our own time, but one that might well have delighted the old man with its powerful immediacy. It certainly stands head-and-shoulders above all other accounts in the catalogue, and should earn the work many hew admirers.
There are three attractive fillers: Soulima Stravinsky’s four-hand arrangement of Madrid (best known as the fourth of the Quatre études for orchestra of 1928, which seems to send up, among other things, Chabrier’s España), and Victor Babin’s arrangements of the deliciously tart, smoky Tango (1940) and the ever-entertaining Circus Polka (1941-42). This is one of the must-have Stravinsky discs of recent years, and full credit should go not only to the pianists themselves, but to the whole Hyperion team, not least the piano technician Thomas Hübsch, who keeps the Steinway instruments on top form throughout. And how good to see a detail from Nicholas Roerich’s utterly distinctive original set designs for The Rite of Spring on the cover.
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