Notes and Editorial Reviews
Le sacre du printemps.
Belli Pn Duo
WERGO 6807 (58:06)
I mentioned this disc in passing in my interview article with Enrico Belli (
31:4). It gives me great pleasure to report that the Stravinsky/Crumb combo is every bit as stimulating as the Debussy/Crumb was. Here, Enrico Belli is joined by Olivia Belli.
(1979), subtitled “Celestial Mechanics,” consists of four pieces and is further referred to as, “Cosmic Dances for amplified piano, four hands.” The inspiration for the fourth volume was the five-volume study of celestial mechanics by the French mathematician/philosopher Pierre-Simon Laplace. The piece we hear first, “Alpha Centauri,” begins with an appoggiatura-based gesture that shows close links to similar gestures in the Stravinsky. Crumb’s sound palette is wide-ranging, yet primarily austere. Rhythmically, there is a timeless quality to the music that enables the opening strand of
to emerge seemingly inevitably out of its close.
Helpfully, Wergo has tracked each section of
individually. Hearing the work in its piano duet arrangement is especially effective in the current context, for one’s ear keeps making connections between the Stravinsky and the Crumb—the light wash of sound immediately before the onset of “Augures printaniers” is a case in point, where the otherworldliness is identifiable but momentary. The famous repeated chords of “Augures” bring us back to Stravinsky in no uncertain fashion. Of course, it is here that one inevitably misses the heft of a full symphony orchestra (the 1975 LSO/Abbado, currently available on two DG reissues, points to just how upfront this section really can be). The Belli Duo brings true mystery to “Rondes printannières” without any unnecessary blurring of textures; lines are again delivered with X-ray clarity towards the end of part I (“Danse de la terre”).
The ephemeral gestures of Crumb’s “Beta Cygni” set the tone for an elusive piece that seems almost to wish to deny the existence of the instrument it utilizes. When we hear sounds produced traditionally (i.e., by the pressing of a key), one experiences a sort of “colored familiarity.” “Gamma Draconis” similarly utilizes washes of sound from strummed piano strings and grows to a wild dance. This frenzy, both real and implied, closely mirrors the basis of the Stravinsky. Here, the piano’s sound is altered to include a silvery tinge that certainly seems to speak of other worlds.
The opening moments of part II of
inevitably lose some of their timbral magic in translation to keyboard, but the musical hypnosis remains intact, as does the contrast of this passage with “Glorification de l’élue.” The Belli Piano Duo’s virtuosity comes to the fore in the final “Danse sacrale,” even managing to imply orgiastic hysteria at one point.
How does one follow
? In concert, encores inevitably fall flat on their faces; but here the final Crumb, “Delta Orionis,” seems both natural and an extension of the Stravinsky to new, hitherto unexplored directions. The earthiness of a primordial rite meets music of the heavens. Surrounding
with Crumb as well as inserting music between the work’s two parts sheds new light on a work that so many people claim to know so well.
Andrea Lambertucci’s sound recording is exemplary in its clarity and distancing; Richard Whitehouse’s notes are as informed and illuminating as ever from this source. Urgently recommended.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Olivia Belli (Piano),
Enrico Belli (Piano)
Belli Piano Duo
Period: 20th Century
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943).
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