Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sparkly Music

I have just recovered from a quick splurge at Arkivmusic. Here's what I bought and why.

First, I bought a CD of Igor Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. When I was driving to work yesterday, I heard part of it on the radio and was instantly captivated. It was packed with rhythmic thrills, typical of Stravinsky. But I also admired how the piano and the woodwind choir blended with each other, so that at times you could hardly tell where one ended and the other began. I found a Decca recording of the same performance KFUO-FM played for me, with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Olli Mustonen playing the solo part. The disc also includes Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, his Movements for Piano and Orchestra (both with Mustonen at the keyboard), and the Ebony Concerto with Dmitri Ashkenazy on the clarinet.

Next, as a bonus I also acquired a disc of Stravinsky's music for 2 pianos, including a Sonata, a Concerto, and the composer's own transcription of the Rite of Spring. This disc, on the value-priced Naxos label, features performances by pianists Benjamin Frith and Peter Hill.

Finally, carrying forward my interest in concertos for 2 Pianos, I finally resolved to buy a recording of Dmitri Shostakovich's Concertino for 2 Pianos. I first fell in love with this piece in college, when I heard a vinyl LP of it performed by the composer's son and grandson, Maxim and Dmitri; it was originally written, I believe, for the elder Dmitri to play with his then-teenaged-piano-prodigy son Maxim. The music simply sparkled, and I have never forgotten the impression it made on me when I last heard it, more than a decade ago. The present Chandos album includes performances by Setya Tanyel and Jeremy Brown of this piece, as well as Shostakovich's Suite for 2 Pianos in f-sharp minor, Aram Khachaturian's Suite for 2 Pianos, and Alexander Arutiunian's Armenian Rhapsody for 2 Pianos.

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