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The Pianos Trio - Live in Lugano
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Moscow Cheryomushki, Op.105, Suite from the operetta - arr. Andrew Cornall [16:22]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Mer [20:54]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Gaïté Parisienne, Suite from Manuel Rosenthal’s ballet [10:32]
Carlo BOCCADORO (b.1963)
Vaalbara* [12:21]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
L’Oiseau de Feu – Suite (1919) [13:38]
Alessandro Stella, Giorgia Tomassi, Carlo Maria Griguoli (pianos)
all except Boccadoro transcr. for three pianos by Carlo Maria Griguoli
rec. Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland, 29 June 2010 (Stravinsky), 16 July 2011 (Shostakovich), 23 June 2012 (Debussy), 25 July 2013 (Offenbach, Boccadoro)
*World Première
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 628807 [77:18]

If you know anyone who can’t understand how music can be funny then they need to hear this disc since it’s funny from the word ‘go’. Shostakovich’s music for his operetta Moscow Cheryomushki is funny in its own right. Amazingly, it is even funnier when transcribed for three pianos, perhaps because the fast-paced music can be played even faster on piano or it seems so. I could easily imagine Victor Borge having a great time introducing his public to the first part A spin through Moscow or Chico Marx making his fingers look like little people as he ‘ran’ them up and down the keyboard. Just as the use of three pianos makes this piece even funnier it appeared to render the Waltz more poignant in parts. It was then back to hilarity with Dances when I could picture the piano star of the 1950s, Winifred Atwell, smiling at her audience as she played. The quote from Midnight in Moscow makes its appearance as the music rollicks its way to a breathtaking finish. With Ballet the suite comes to a close but with the listener wishing there was yet more to come; always the best way to leave an audience as the huge applause clearly proves.

Transcribing Debussy’s La Mer was an inspired choice for this project since Debussy was such a wonderful writer for the piano. Although the work was written for orchestra all his music works on piano too and the use of three emphasises its magical qualities. I felt this particularly in the second section Jeux de vagues when the proliferation of tinkling notes made the impression of the ebb and flow of waves even more powerful than I remember in the orchestral version. In fact the whole disc encourages a new look at music you may know well — with the exception of the world première — which is such a refreshing thing to do.

The transcriptions of all the pieces, bar the Boccadoro, made by Carlo Maria Griguoli, a member of the Pianos Trio, are extremely successful. Offenbach’s Gaïté Parisienne is another joyful work that bursts with life and so again is suited to this three piano treatment. The excitement and gay abandon of the French follies has new life breathed into the music with this transcription. The madcap nature of Galop is pointed up perfectly by the three pianos and the universally well known Cancan is, as one would expect, a triumph in such an arrangement.

Contemporary Italian composer Carlo Boccadoro wrote his piece Vaalbara for the trio, to be performed as part of Martha Argerich’s renowned Project Lugano 2013 at which this recording was made. It is a highly ambitious and original work that seeks describe in music the Earth’s first supercontinent formed around 3.3 billion years ago and its shifting nature as various of its elements change form and shape eventually breaking away to form several of the continents we know today. Once you understand what the composer was attempting to describe you can certainly appreciate that what you are hearing is indeed a constantly changing landmass in formation. The work calls for extraordinary feats on the part of the performers.

Coincidentally on the same day as I began to review this disc I heard a piece on the UK’s Radio 3 chosen by a listener. It was an extract from the two piano version of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring which the listener said he’d heard as a young man at a concert, was bowled over by it and realised for the first time how powerful music can be. It certainly was and so I hope he gets to hear Griguoli’s three piano transcription of his Firebird Suite because if he was impressed by four hands playing The Rite of Spring then what will he make of six hands playing this. Suffice to say that it is a fantastic listen and that it is to be hoped that Griguoli will do the same for The Rite of Spring too ... if he hasn’t already. The use of three pianos really comes into its own in Infernal Dance of King Kashchei bringing the image of a whirling dervish thrillingly to life.

As a novelty disc this was a great listen which I thoroughly enjoyed and the three pianists give their all. Doubtless the possibilities for transcribing works for three pianos are endless so we can expect further similar discs. This one would certainly be a well received stocking filler because as we’ll soon be told “It’ll soon be Christmas!”

Steve Arloff