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Monday, August 7, 2017

Igor Stravinsky - Chamber Works & Rarities (Vladimir Ashkenazy; Charles Dutoit)


Composer: Igor Stravinsky

  • (01) Ragtime for 11 players
  • (02-04) Octet for wind instruments
  • (05-07) Three Pieces for clarinet solo
  • (08-12) The Soldier's Tale - Suite for violin, clarinet and piano
  • (13) Pastorale for violin, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet and bassoon
  • (14) Concertino for 12 instruments
  • (15-17) Septet
  • (18) Epitaphium for flute, clarinet and harp
  • (19-22) Concerto for two pianos
  • (01-03) Concerto in E flat major "Dumbarton Oaks"
  • (04-08) Danses concertante
  • (09-11) Concerto in D for strings
  • (12-15) Quatre Études
  • (16-19) Four Norwegian Moods
  • (20-27) Suites 1 & 2

European Soloists Ensemble (CD1 1-18)
Dimitri Ashkenazy, clarinet
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano & director
Andrei Gavrilov, piano (CD1 19-22)

Sinfonietta de Montréal, conducted by Charles Dutoit (CD2 1-11)
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Charles Dutoit (CD2 12-15)
Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Chailly (CD2 16-19)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, conducted by Ernest Ansermet (CD2 20-27)

Date: 1962-1994
Compilation: 2003
Label: Decca



We know that ‘small’ can be ‘beautiful’, but that it can also be musically significant passes certain commentators by. Not, however, Anthony Burton, whose excellent notes for this, perhaps Ashkenazy’s finest Stravinsky CD to date, explain how the Septet “marks the point of transition between the Neo-Classical style of Stravinsky’s middle period and the serial techniques, derived from the works of Schoenberg and Webern, which he adopted towards the end of his life”.

Stravinsky’s catchy but immensely clever Septet scores a double bulls-eye by employing formal ingenuity (the closing Gigue features four separate fugues on four versions of an eight-note row) without ‘losing’ the untutored listener. Written for violin, viola, cello, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano, it is followed by the disc’s closing selection, a 1'29'' Epitaphium that offers brief confirmation of the older Stravinsky’s serial leanings. The journey started with Rag-time, composed in 1918 and peppered with the metallic twang of a cimbalon. Ashkenazy’s performance isn’t quite as ‘cool’ as Hugh Wolff’s, but it is very well played, as is the Octet, with its scampering variations and gentle, bossa-nova style final bars (did Stravinsky ever write anything more charming than this?). Again, the performance is confident and unfussy, while Dmitri Ashkenazy blows plenty of spirit into the Three Pieces for solo clarinet (the third especially) and Ashkenazy pere joins him – together with violinist Alan Brind – for a no-nonsense account of a trio arrangement of The Soldier’s Tale Suite. Here Brind favours light bowing and bland characterization, whereas the elegant Pastorale and lively Concertino???? are, by turns, colourful and punchy.

Decca’s recordings are uniformly good throughout; so is the standard of playing, and although one might maintain other preferences in this or that individual piece (with Stravinsky himself invariably leading the field), the programme is both stimulating and entertaining.

-- Gramophone
reviewing Ashkenazy's performances, originally released as DECCA 448 177-2

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ****


Igor Stravinsky (17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. His output is typically divided into three general style periods: a Russian period, a neoclassical period, and a serial period.


Vladimir Ashkenazy (born July 6, 1937) is a Russian-born internationally recognized solo pianist, chamber music performer, and conductor of Icelandic and Swiss citizenship. He studied with Lev Oborin and Boris Zemliansky at the Moscow Conservatory, and won 2nd prize in the 1955 Chopin competition. Ashkenazy has recorded a wide range of piano repertoire, both solo works and concerti. His recordings have earned him five Grammy awards plus Iceland's Order of the Falcon. Midway through his pianistic career, Ashkenazy branched into conducting and steadily increased his activity.


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