STRAVINSKY: Concerto for Piano and Winds; Capriccio; Movements; Pétrouchka – Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, p./ São Paulo Sym. Orch. /Yan Pascal Tortelier – Chandos

STRAVINSKY: Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments; Capriccio; Movements; Pétrouchka – Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, p./ São Paulo Sym. Orch. /Yan Pascal Tortelier – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5147, 79:40 [Distr. by Naxos] (1/27/15)  *****:

On this very desirable SACD, French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet explores the complete works for piano and orchestra of Igor Stravinsky.

The Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments was written in Paris in 1923–24. This work was revised in 1950. It was a piece the composer often played in concert, and in fact, Stravinsky withheld the performance rights for himself for many years. The orchestra is scored for two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, two bassoons (second bassoon doubling contrabassoon), four horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba and accompanied by timpani and cymbals.

The performance on this disc is precise and dynamic. It’s helped by a very well-done 5.1 channel recording that is natural, but still allows for crisp reproduction of the instruments. Percussion is finely etched, and the imaging across the front channels doesn’t wander.

Stravinsky composed the Capriccio to have a repertoire alternative to his concerto. It was written by Stravinsky in Nice between 1926 and 1929. The score was revised in 1949. The twelve-tone idiom of Movements, the third work on this disc, represents Stravinsky’s experiments in the use of serial techniques.

Finally, the disc features Pétrouchka. Pianist Bavouzet had long wanted to play the piano part and has described the effort to blend into the fortissimo of the full orchestra as ‘one of the best musical experiences of my life’.

It’s a great experience for the listener as well. This version of the piece comes from 1946. It’s one of many revisions the composer undertook. It’s the finest performance I’ve heard of this composition, and I’ve heard many. The recording here, like the rest of the disc, is very musical and realistic with a high dynamic range. There is a wide soundstage, and the surrounds are subtle with enough ambiance to give my listening room some semblance of the original recording space at the Julio Prestes Cultural Center in Brazil.

The orchestra throughout all the tracks is very engaged and ‘tight’ with entrances in these difficult works. Bavouzet is right on the mark musically, and the superb recording makes for a compelling package.

There are no shortages of Stravinsky on disc, and I’d love to see Chandos extend this series to other works. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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