Anthony Marwood / Thomas Adès

Stravinsky: Complete Music for Violin & Piano

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Transcribing works for violin and piano might have seemed an unusual sideline for Igor Stravinsky, who famously complained about the violin's resemblance to the human voice, and who found using strings for their emotive value antithetical to his pursuit of a cool, "objective" tone. He preferred using woodwinds because their tone colors were less evocative of singing, and he generally neglected the violin until practical considerations, stemming from the composition of his Violin Concerto, led to this new practice. Stravinsky and the violinist Samuel Dushkin had struck up a friendship through working together on the concerto, and in the interests of concert promotion and the furtherance of publications by Schott, the two men worked up a selection of pieces that they could play in recitals. This double-disc album by violinist Anthony Marwood and pianist Thomas Adès presents Stravinsky's complete works for violin and piano (though the Suite Italienne is represented by a precursor work, the Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi, which was Stravinsky's first attempt to adapt music from his ballet Pulcinella). Considering that Adès composed his Violin Concerto for Marwood, an obvious parallel can be drawn between these contemporary musicians and Stravinsky and Dushkin, so their attraction to this body of work seems natural; their freedom in interpreting these pieces hearkens back to the experimentation in which their predecessors indulged. Both Marwood and Adès play with crisp accentuation, rhythmic buoyancy, and a tone that ranges from sweetly lyrical to acerbic and biting. Most important in their interpretations is their ability to play the music with an ear to highlighting Stravinsky's eccentricities, rather than smoothing them over or making the music sound prettier than it should. The end result is a fresh and sometimes bracing take on Stravinsky as a chamber composer, and the set is quite stimulating for the performers' vitality and acute understanding of these works. Highly recommended.

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