Since the centenary of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps in 2013, recordings of the version for two pianos have increased, and many virtuoso pianists have taken up the challenge that Stravinsky's colorful transcription presents. For this 2018 release on Hyperion, Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes team up to give one of the most brilliant and precise readings of the work, and followed it with a muscular rendition of the neoclassical Concerto for two solo pianos (1932-35), and delightful interpretations of Madrid from the Four Etudes (1917, revised in 1928), the Tango (1940), and the Circus Polka (1941-42), the last three pieces in arrangements by different hands. The intricate textures, complex rhythms, and explosive violence of Le Sacre du printemps are clearly communicated in this fascinating performance, and Hamelin and Andsnes successfully imitate the original orchestral sonorities and tone colors through controlled touch, varied accentuation, and carefully shaded dynamics. Listeners who are well acquainted with the orchestral version will find that Hamelin and Andsnes have come quite close to duplicating many of Stravinsky's effects, most powerfully in the Glorification of the Chosen One and the closing Sacrificial Dance, though with great subtlety in the softer sections. The Concerto is a bit drier in coloration and more involved with intricate counterpoint than evocative timbres, but the pianists play it with sufficient energy, clarity, and wit to hold the listener's attention. The final selections serve as encores, and Hamelin and Andsnes take the opportunity to have a little fun, which is welcome after the intensity of Le Sacre du printemps and the fairly cerebral Concerto. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|The Rite of Spring|
|Concerto for two solo pianos|