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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo-Concertant (1931-2) [15:38]
Divertimento (derived from Le Baiser de la Fée) (1933) [21:49]
Lukas FOSS (b.1922)

String Quartet No. 1 (1947) [20:19]
Eudice Shapiro (violin)
Brooks Smith (piano)
American Art Quartet (Eudice Shapiro (violin I), Robert Sushel (violin II), Virginia Majewski (viola), Victor Gottlieb (cello))
rec. 1962, Los Angeles, California (Stravinsky) originally released on Ava Records LP; no details for others except original release on Columbia Masterworks LP. ADD


Close-up recording coupled with consummate hothouse playing from one of Crystal’s rare revivals from the analogue years.

The Divertimento’s Danses Suisses do not recall anything Swiss so much as Petrushka’s stomped out Easter Fair (9:01). The following sly and charming Scherzo – all 3:16 of it – might be by Kreisler on a thorny day. The Pas de Deux has the most patent tribute to Tchaikovsky whose Snow Maiden music was mined to produce this ingratiating dessert to the meat represented by the Duo-Concertant. Both works were written for Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976) as was Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto (1931) – and all date from the early 1930s. Utmost virtuosity, salon sentiment and pell-mell energy characterize the finale.

The Duo-Concertant was premiered on Berlin Radio on 28 October 1932. Stravinsky recorded it in Berlin with Szigeti on 11-13 October 1945 (Sony’s Igor Stravinsky Edition SM2K 46297). The first Eclogue reconnects with the Easter Fair mood while the second is astonishingly pastoral-meditative. The Gigue is bouncily jaunty and optimistic while the searchingly melodic Dithyrambe is unflinchingly probing. The composer and Szigeti in their superbly spruced up 1945 recording give the work a cooler spin than Shapiro and Smith whose ardour infuses emotional intensity into its pages.

The Foss quartet is his first and only effort in the medium. It is a work of vibrantly rippling melodic musculature and it is no surprise to realise that it was written by a 23 year old. Although in a single movement it falls into three segments played without pause: a dazzlingly sensuous, thrumming and full-lipped Introduction, a tender theme and variations which at times drifts into Dvořák territory and a bustling and tangy finale. Every instrumental stratum is packed tight with eagerly engaging invention. The players are grippingly recorded in close-quarters sound. They engage with passion in music that touches on the styles of rural Copland, dance-driven Celticism (Moeran and Bax 1), ripe Tippett-like ardour and a sumptuous polyphonic weave.

These recordings have had to be resurrected from vinyl originals and you can hear the occasional artefact of this origin. The Foss disc must have been in good heart but there is the odd scuff and brush on the Divertimento recording.

Eudice Shapiro is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and a former student of Ivan Shapiro and Efrem Zimbalist. She has appeared as soloist with Goossens, Stravinsky and Izler Solomon. So far as the Crystal catalogue is concerned you can hear Eudice Shapiro in Lou Harrison’s violin concerto on CD850 but also on CD302 in various Stravinsky works with the Ernst Toch sonata.

The works on the present disc have more melodic concentration in common than you may at first have guessed. The Foss demands to be heard. The Stravinsky pieces show the composer as passionate and engaging at a more human level than was his wont in later years. Certainly the two Dushkin-associated works defy the sometimes ascetic tendencies of the Violin Concerto.

Rob Barnett


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