STRAVINSKY: Three Movements from Petrushka (piano four-hands version); The Rite of Spring (piano four-hands version) – Lomazov-Rackers Piano Duo – MSR Classics MS 1628, 47:46 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Stravinsky created multiple piano versions of his great ballets, not necessarily for performance, but for rehearsal. There is even a record of he and Debussy playing the score of Rite of Spring together during one of these prelims. Hearing these is often enlightening, as there are parts which conductors either fail to bring out properly during performance, or are the result of bad orchestration on the composer’s part (yes, this certainly did happen with some of these gargantuan orchestrations). The resulting clarity can be illuminating, while at the same time they obviously lack the dramatic import and sheer overwhelming volume of sound that we are all used to.

In the case of the multi-player arrangements, they can be done for two pianos or one piano-two players, and the Lomazov-Rackers Duo has opted for this latter setup as they believe it leads to the best presentation of these pieces. Now common in recitals, these once backstage wonders are taking their rightful place in the eyes of the public, only adding to the extraordinary sense of awe one has when considering the early music of Igor Stravinsky.

Marina Lomazov and Joseph Rackers garnered wide attention as the Second Prize Winners of the Sixth Biennial Ellis Duo Piano Competition, the only national competition for piano duo in the United States at that time. Aside from a wide-ranging performing career, they both serve on the artist piano faculty of the University of South Carolina School of Music where Lomazov is the Ira McKissick Koger Professor of Fine Arts and Rackers is Chair of the Piano Department. This is a fine recording, nicely captured at the University of South Carolina Recital Hall in Columbia, played to crisp perfection and well worth hearing.

—Steven Ritter