STRAVINSKY: Piano-Rag Music; Circus Polka; Piano Sonata; Serenade in A; Tango; Four Etudes; Scherzo; Piano Sonata in F-sharp minor – Victor Sangiorgio, piano – Naxos

by | Mar 20, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

STRAVINSKY: Piano-Rag Music; Circus Polka; Piano Sonata; Serenade in A; Tango; Four Etudes; Scherzo; Piano Sonata in F-sharp minor – Victor Sangiorgio, piano – Naxos 8.570377, 71:20 *****:

Even seasoned collectors often don’t realize the vast range of the music of Igor Stravinsky. When we delve into his piano music we begin to see what a terrifically wide range is his stylistic diversion, especially in the earlier years when he was still seeking his muse. This release, presenting us some rarely heard pieces from mainly the turn-of-the-century, is ear-opening in many regards, as the composer show himself to be a remarkable innovator and absorber of various currents flowing fast when he was just trying to grapple with his own styles and predilections.

The three short pieces on this disc, Piano-Rag-Music, Tango, and Scherzo make for interesting fillers, the former especially giving us a sample of the some of the madcap rhythmic antics to come, but it is the sonatas and other music that prove the most illuminating. His Piano Sonata in F-minor is absolutely Scriabinesque—this is a perfect party piece, for never, unless they are already familiar with it, would anyone guess that Stravinsky was the author. For his critics, who later said that he really could not write any music other than the stuff he did because of technical limitations, with the extreme rhythmic and melodic inclinations that sometimes even foreshadowed Minimalism, this will be a great surprise, showing him to understand the romantic and extreme harmonic textures of Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsakov to a remarkable degree. And what is even better is that the work holds it own—it is a bona-fide sonata that has much to commend it, and I enjoyed it greatly.

The later Piano Sonata hails from 1924 and shows that the composer had discarded the romanticism he was flirting with, in this much more acerbic and ascetic work that nonetheless does not entirely jettison its melodic origins. The Four Etudes also bring back hints of Scriabin and Chopin – true etudes as they tackle different technical problems in each one, such as chromatics and multiple rhythms across the hands. When we arrive at the Serenade in A we are on more familiar ground as the composer we would come to know as the cementer of neo-classicism speaks with an authoritative voice.

Victor Sangiorgio, a pianist new to me, plays this music with authority and assertiveness, captured in excellent sound at St. John’s Church in Essex, and the thing has been wearing out my player. If you thought you knew Stravinsky and have not heard this music, there is a wonderful revelation waiting in store for you!

— Steven Ritter
 

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