In terms of repertoire
this is an interesting and useful compilation.
None of these pieces is among its composer’s
best known music, but each is representative
of its composer’s genius.
To begin with Stravinsky,
whose three pieces – the Suite Italienne,
Duo Concertante and Divertimento – account
for fifty of the seventy minutes of
the recital. This music was composed
during the early 1930s, intended for
the composer’s performing collaboration
with the violinist Samuel Dushkin, for
whom he would also write the Violin
The Suite Italienne
is an attractive reworking of music
from the neo-classical ballet Pulcinella
that Stravinsky had composed more
than ten years before. The idea of re-using
material is hardly unique to Stravinsky.
Here he brought freshness and vitality
to bear on the new composition, which
abounds in attractive tunes, most of
them by the 18th century
Neapolitan composer Pergolesi. The music
suits the violin and piano combination
particularly well, and there is nothing
forced about the new context in which
it resides. As for the performance,
Ambartsumian and Sheludyakov make an
effective combination, though the recorded
sound tends to be dry in a way that
is rather unflattering to the violin.
This is emphasised by a tendency towards
heaviness in the rhythms, though this
may be more a matter of interpretation
that technique. There is no question
that the performance brings much pleasure
and communicates strongly.
the Duo Concertante as ‘a musical parallel
of pastoral poetry’, and behind the
music there lurks the influence of ancient
Roman poetry. The style is rather different
from the neo-classical vein of the Suite
Italienne, and it suits these performers
rather better. There is a well made
balance of poetry and activity, and
a real sense of teamwork too. Again
the recording is somewhat lacking in
atmosphere, but perfectly acceptable.
The Divertimento takes
music from another existing ballet score,
this time The Fairy’s Kiss, on
themes deriving from Tchaikovsky. Ambartsumian
captures the spirit of that master immediately
with a refined singing phrase that he
then intensifies with warm weight of
tone. The two artists are particularly
successful in this appealing music.
Rhapsodies both date from 1928, and
are therefore products of that master’s
maturity. These performers seem particularly
at home in this repertoire, and the
first movement of the rhapsody No. 1
is perhaps the highlight of the whole
CD. The recording seems more atmospheric
in the Bartók than in the Stravinsky,
but that may be simply a response to
the vibrancy of the playing.
There are full notes
in the booklet, though these tend to
generalise rather than deal in detail
with the music on offer.