Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Complete works for violin and piano
CD 1
Suite italienne; Ballad; Danse Russe (from Pétrouchka); Chanson Russe; Pastorale; Divertimento (transcription for violin and piano from Le Baiser de la Fée)
CD 2
Duo concertant; Tango; Elégies and La Marseillaise for solo violin; Prélude et Ronde des princesses, Berceuse and Scherzo from L’Oiseau de feu; Airs du Rossignol from Le Chant du Rossignol.
Isabelle van Keulen (violin); Olli Mustonen (piano)
June 1987, January, June 1988 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. DDD
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802062 [51:45 + 43:23]

Stravinsky’s publisher Willy Streck introduced Stravinsky to violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976) in 1930. The meeting would produce not only the Violin Concerto but also a varied and finely engraved crop of other pieces for violin and piano. We can hear them all here played in exemplary style and sophisticated sound. The stylishly deliberate and subtly varied, spiffingly lively and italicised six movement Suite Italienne drawn from material familiar from Pulcinella is done with vibrant immediacy. The Ballad is more impressionistic and drifts between Cyril Scott and sinister Nikolai Medtner. The Danse Russe from Pétrouchka is full of eager zest with glorious work from Mustonen and frictionless celerity from van Keulen. The Chanson Russe recalls Sibelius’s Humoresques: sly charm mode engaged. Pastorale is a tender and yielding little saunter. The Divertimento moves between lunar light, coarse Russian dance fragments, spikily eerie revels and romantic louche. The Duo Concertant is in five cut-glass movements and is the only original chamber work he ever wrote for Dushkin. The language is spicy and more related to the music for Apollon Musagète than to the prime early ballets. Its stony finery, elegant emotionalism (finale) and brilliance are a touching delight. Airs du Rossignol is chillier yet and much more dissonantly oblique and angular. Mustonen arranged the Tango and van Keulen takes to it as to the manner born. The Elegie is from a chaste, severe and chilly planet. It’s a violin solo as is La Marseillaise. Those two pieces make a suitable palate-cleanser for the arrangements of three extended extracts from L’Oiseau de feu. The earliest part of the Prelude has the listener struggling to make the Firebird connection but as things progress the connection becomes more obvious and the Ronde is spot-on making feral glinting and lapidary connections at some points with Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye. The duo make a much more than merely viable success of the arrangement. The brief La Marseillaise (1919) dates from well before the Dushkin introduction and was first performed only in 1979. The liner is by EMI Classics stalwart, Malcolm Hayes.

Rob Barnett

Stylish Stravinsky sampled from every style in his glossary.