STRAVINSKY: Divertimento; SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Sonata – Vladimir Stoupel, violin/ Judith Ingolfsson, piano – Audite multichannel SACD 92.576, 54:39 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The Ice Maiden by Hans Christian Andersen served as the storyline fodder for Igor Stravinsky’s fairytale ballet Le Baiser de la Fee, one of three neo-classic ballets he created in France. It was created for the 35th anniversary of the death of Tchaikovsky, and he used an assemblage of songs and piano works all through the ballet. The result is certainly one of the most tuneful scores Stravinsky ever penned, and even today maintains a wide popularity, being recorded by many greats over the years, and immortalizing a lot of Tchaikovsky’s music that would not have attained such status in the original form.
This ballet received no less than four reworking’s, entirely within the work ethic of the composer, who would make as many versions as needed to supply the needs of any ensemble or performers who wished to have performing scores for their own purposes. On this recording we have the first such arrangement, suggested to the composer by violinist Samuel Dushkin. It works well, and remains a popular adaptation. Stoupel and Ingolfsson play it with a lot of rhythmic flexibility and enjoyment.
The Shostakovich is an entirely different emotional experience, one of the most harrowing sonatas in the literature, and light years divorced from the insouciance of the Stravinsky. It was dedicated to David Oistrakh, who recorded a near-definitive version of the piece. The work is death-oriented; a circular vision that ends with the slow material it begins with. This is a piece that takes a great deal of concentration and thought in order to convey emotion, and not just any emotion but one that allows for a progression of ideology that tells a story in a comprehensible manner while still presenting music that is attractive enough to not alienate the listener.
Stoupel and Ingolfsson again take no precautions with this work, understanding it primarily as a nihilistic meditation on ultimate death, but playing it with a prophylactic reasoning that still maintains focus on the piece as pure music devoid of too many extra-musical associations. It works—they are able to refocus our attention on the notes themselves and present an accessible and cogent argument.
The recording is first-rate with the surround sound floating the two artists nicely all around. Short timing, but excellent concept and performances.
—Steven Ritter