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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Igor Stravinsky - Music for Piano & Orchestra (Steven Osborne; Ilan Volkov)


Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • (01) Song of the Volga Boatmen, for wind and percussion
  • (02-04) Concerto for piano and wind instruments
  • (05-07) Capriccio for piano and orchestra
  • (08-12) Movements for piano and orchestra
  • (13-15) Concerto in D for string orchestra
  • (16) Canon (on a Russian Popular Tune)

Steven Osborne, piano
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Ilan Volkov, conductor

Date: 2013
Label: Hyperion



Osborne and Volkov tick a major Stravinsky box

Stravinsky once described the piano as the ‘fulcrum’ of his compositional activity, presumably meaning that he used it to lever ideas into action. This record of his music for piano and orchestra is, however, best taken as light music. The opening and closing pieces are, of course, trivia, a rather plain setting of the ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ dating from 1917 and a one-minute canon on the final melody in The Firebird written for Pierre Monteux. The Concerto in D, for strings, is a pleasant divertimento, its central Arioso reminding us how much Stravinsky admired Tchaikovsky.

Of the three works for piano and orchestra, the most severe is the Concerto for Piano and Wind, written in 1923 24 when Stravinsky was embarking upon his most neo-classical phase. It places huge demands on soloist, surely conductor, and also recording engineers, all of whom sail through unscathed by the technical problems and the difficult sonorities (full woodwind and brass, no strings apart from double basses). The Capriccio is, as its name implies, a work written to beguile, which it does, and would benefit from an altogether more light-hearted approach than the extremely efficient Steven Osborne gives it. His technique is up to all the demands placed upon him, including the very difficult Movements, written in 1958 59 as Stravinsky was entering Webern-like waters, and approaching Boulez in complexity. No one can possibly hear how the maths all works out but that does not matter: Stravinsky had a much better ear than most, certainly than the more rigorous serialists of the day (the 1950s). In fact, the five short movements can sound – how Stravinsky would have hated the word! – rather pretty.

-- John WarrackGramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / RECORDING: ****
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


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.


Steven Osborne (born 1971) is a Scottish pianist. He was taught by Richard Beauchamp at St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh before going to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester to study under Renna Kellaway. His recording career began when he was signed to Hyperion Records in 1998 and has resulted in bi-annual recordings. His on-going contract with Hyperion has resulted in two Gramophone Awards. Steven Osborne has returned almost annually to the BBC Proms. At the Edinburgh Festival he has appeared both as a soloist and chamber musician.


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