Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Superb Stravinsky, with a light touch

From February 3, 2015:

After loving the dazzling recordings that Chandos released of Prokofiev and Haydn Piano Concertos with British orchestras, I wondered what the French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet would be up to next. I was so pleased to see the announcement by the same record company of this excellent program of Stravinsky works for piano and orchestra. This was clearly music to which Bavouzet was well suited, and in which he could provide his usual blend of élan, wit and solid musicianship. His light touch might temper the tendency which still exists to take the often stern Stravinsky too seriously. This time Bavouzet would be reunited with the conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, with whom he recorded a Gramophone Award winning disc of concerted works by Ravel, Debussy and Massenet in 2011. And the two were off in May 2014 to Sao Paulo to record there with Tortelier’s former orchestra.

Up until now I’ve known the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (Osesp, as it’s known in Brazil) exclusively playing music of Brazilian composers, and especially Villa-Lobos. In this repertoire they’ve recorded quite a bit, for BIS and Naxos especially, and they pretty much rule. I’ve heard about their trips to Europe, and the strong notices they’ve received for concerts and recordings in a wide range of repertoire with Yan Pascal Tortelier and their new musical director Marin Alsop. Osesp, which is now the best South American orchestra, seems to be making its way into the top tier of orchestras internationally.

The orchestral players, often equal partners in Stravinsky’s scores, excel in this music as much as the soloist. This is especially true of the wind players, and is most especially evident in the strongest work on the disc, the early 1920s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. In all four works Tortelier keeps everything in balance and in forward motion. He ensures that the broad range of varied textures, from the pianist’s immersion within the densest, loudest orchestral sounds of Petrouchka to the spare, brittle sounds of the serial Movements, always make musical sense. The Chandos engineers are, I’m sure sometimes breathlessly, swept along while providing really excellent, lifelike Super Audio CD sound.

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