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Stravinsky: Diversions - Music For Violin & Piano

Stravinsky / Chen / Young
Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Melba   Catalog #: 301128   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Timothy YoungRay Chen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STRAVINSKY Suite after Pergolesi . Divertimento. Duo Concertante. Chanson russe. Danse russe Ray Chen (vn); Timothy Young (pn) MELBA 301128 (63:16)

I’ve waxed enthusiastic over Australian Ray Chen’s collection for Sony of virtuoso pieces with pianist Noreen Polera. Now he’s back with a program of music by Igor Stravinsky, this time with pianist Timothy Young, on Melba. The duo recorded the recital on January 3–5, 2010, in Iwaki Auditorium in Read more Melbourne, and the engineers captured the instrumentalists in warmly reverberant, though clear and crisp, recorded sound.

The program opens with Stravinsky’s Suite (“After Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi”); although the work may be more familiar in an arrangement with Stravinsky’s regular collaborator, violinist Samuel Dushkin, under the title Suite Italienne , the duo plays instead the earlier, more virtuosic, arrangement Stravinsky made for violinist Paul Kochanski. Young’s contribution to the ensemble seems particularly notable in moments like those in the second-movement Serenata and the fourth-movement Gavotta in which his atmospheric accompaniments almost distract attention from the violin part. The recorded sound’s reverberance may shear the textures of some of their spikiness, but that hardly dampens the rhythmic vitality of Chen’s playing (and Young’s) in the Tarantella and in the motoric finale. And Chen’s tonal luster, so rich in the earlier recording, comes through clearly here as well. The luster as well as the strength of that tone seem perhaps even more apparent in the first movement of the Divertimento’s Sinfonia (only at the very end of the movement does that tone occasionally show signs of strain). Erik Levi’s informative and insightful notes relate the origin of all these pieces to the collaboration with Dushkin and Stravinsky’s desire to create a repertoire from which he and the violinist could construct programs for their tours together, and that perhaps explains in part why Stravinsky drew so heavily on his own works as sources of arrangements (in this program, the Duo Concertante provides the only original contribution to the instrumental combination). Still, angularity and strongly rhythmic writing, like that in the Divertimento’s “Danses suisses,” predominates in both the original works and in the transcriptions; Chen and Young revel in it. The Scherzo recalls the writing for violin in the Violin Concerto’s Aria I, and the duo makes the most of its quicksilver capriciousness. The “Pas de deux” evokes from Chen a more eloquent lyricism, which its variation translates in this performance into fragmentary flashes of light before the finale brings the work to a close with jazzy verve.

Once again, in the Duo Concertante, Chen and Young take advantage of the almost pounding rhythmic regularity of the first Églogue (after a smoother and more lyrical reading of the opening Cantilène), while in the second Églogue, they recall the Violin Concerto’s haunting Aria II. Their rhythmic verve in the Gigue gives way to an affecting reading of the Dithyrambe. The program concludes with two of Stravinsky’s arrangements in a reading by turns tangy and ardent of the “Chanson russe” (Russian Maiden’s Song) from Mavra and an intoxicating account of the “Danse russe” from Petrushka.

Two similar collections have been released in the last few years, one by Dora Bratchkova and Violetta Popova on cpo 999 941, Fanfare 29:1, and the other by Anthony Marwood and Thomas Adès on Hyperion 67723 (a double-CD set), Fanfare 33:6. Bratchkova and Popova occasionally sound a bit tubbier in cpo’s ambiance than Marwood does in Hyperion’s and also a bit more so than Chen does in Melba’s. Marwood seems a bit drier in his approach, and Bratchkova more lyrical, but their performances generally differ by smaller degrees, while Chen’s readings seem more highly charged and rhythmically incisive (or at least tantalizing), at the same time sweetened by his opulent sound—and giving him perhaps a slight edge. In any case, his success in this repertoire demonstrates the range of his musical expressivity and his aplomb in literature not, like that of his anthology for Sony, created to explore his instrument’s virtuosic possibilities. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Suite d'après thèmes, fragments et pièces de Giambattista Pergolesi for Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Timothy Young (Piano), Ray Chen (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925 
Venue:  Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank, Melbourne 
Length: 17 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Divertimento for Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Ray Chen (Violin), Timothy Young (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; France 
Venue:  Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank, Melbourne 
Length: 15 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Duo concertant for Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Timothy Young (Piano), Ray Chen (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1932; France 
Venue:  Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank, Melbourne 
Length: 16 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Chanson russe for Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Timothy Young (Piano), Ray Chen (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; France 
Venue:  Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank, Melbourne 
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Pétrouchka: Danse russe by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Timothy Young (Piano), Ray Chen (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911/1947; Switzerland 
Venue:  Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank, Melbourne 
Length: 2 Minutes 40 Secs. 

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