STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du printemps; Three Pieces for String Quartet; Concerto in E-flat Major “Dumbarton Oaks”; Septet; Movements; Tanz (all arr. for piano duet and 2 pianos) – Bugallo-Williams, piano duo – Wergo

by | May 10, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du printemps; Three Pieces for String Quartet; Concerto in E-flat Major “Dumbarton Oaks”; Septet; Movements; Tanz (all arr. for piano duet and 2 pianos) –  Bugallo-Williams, piano duo – Wergo WER 6683 2 [Distr. Harmonia mundi], 73:58 ****:

Listening to these four-hand arrangements by Stravinsky himself of his various scores composed 1913-1959, we get the feeling of entering into a privileged rehearsal or the artist’s laboratory, his workshop in which trials in texture and sonic density are carried out. Amy Williams and Helena Bugallo perform Le Sacre du printemps at a single keyboard, four hands, intensifying the focal effect of the pedal tones and homogeneity of sound. Debussy, who had sat at a second piano when playing the keyboard arrangement with Stravinsky, called his impression like that “of beautiful nightmare” whose terrors he wished to relive again and again.

Confined within the parameters of one piano, Le Sacre emerges as an angular, ferocious, rhythmic exercise, often repeating (in Part II) the so-called Augurs chord that becomes obsessive. The colors have become relatively monotone, in the manner of Debussy’s grisailles, his Three Nocturnes. The Circle of Adolescents positively harkens back to Moussorgsky. At several turns we can hear references to Speaking to the Dead in a Dead Language. The jerkiness of the Glorification of the Initiate disturbs and arrests. The extended Danse sacrale manages a tense mystery and a shattering, disjunctive resonance despite the lack of orchestral means.

Stravinsky’s 1914 Three Pieces for String Quartet began life as jabbing dances for piano duet, so their appearance here only confirms their origins. Austere and pointillistic, they might point to much of the composer’s neoclassical impulses. The Dumbarton Oaks Concerto (1938) changes the mood, with its bright, open sounds and hints at Bach’s ritornelli and counterpoints for Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Stretti and trills in the last movement, Con moto, definitely echo Bach’s concertos for two or more klaviers. Syncopations and articulated accents keep our ears always busy. The mercurial Allegretto has a distinct, silky charm, maybe a hint of Debussy.

The last two works, Septet (1953) and Movements (1959) indicate the degree to which Stravinsky personalized Schoenberg’s ideas, but the serialism is entirely idiomatic to Stravinsky. I recall hearing Movements with its dedicatee, Margrit Weber, and conductor Fricsay. Polyrhythmic and condensed, they likely pay homage to Webern as much as to Schoenberg. Septet integrates serial and tonal modes into a neoclassic, angular blend of sounds. A fascinating excursion into a composer’s methods, this disc, best taken in modest doses. [Unless you’re a nut about any music for multiple pianists, as I am…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco

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