Notes and Editorial Reviews
Divertimento. Duo Concertant
Carolyn Huebl (vn); Mark Wait (pn)
NAXOS 8.570985 (58:23)
Violinist Carolyn Huebl and pianist Mark Wait have chosen for their program of works for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky two arrangements by violinist Samuel Dushkin (who took these pieces on tour with the composer at the piano) and an original work, the Duo Concertant, which Stravinsky wrote specifically for their partnership. Dushkin’s arrangement, perhaps
more popular than the original one made by the composer for Paul Kochánski, makes a sparkling impression in Huebl’s and Wait’s reading, with their accents sharp and engagingly rhythmic in the Introduzione, and their general buoyancy in the Tarantella (but also in more lyrical movements like the second movement, Serenata). Huebl draws from her instrument a tone that’s not quite rich but always serves as an effective vehicle for her incisive manner. The slight trace of acid figuratively places interpretive quotation marks around movements like the Gavotta, assigning her reading as much to the “second level”—a comment on a comment—that the work itself occupies (think of the very different but in a way also very similar arrangements of Antonio Vivaldi and Tomasso Vitali by Ottorino Respighi). Perhaps the duo’s reading of the Scherzino plays a role in creating the sparkling impression.
The Divertimento’s first movement allows Huebl to dig deeply into the G string of her instrument, and if it’s not particularly rich, it’s nevertheless powerfully commanding (like her slashing passagework later in the movement). The duo mixes bracing rhythmic vitality with elegant gesture in the “Danse Suisse”; Huebl folds in a winning timbral purity and rhythmic ingenuity in the Pas de deux.
The Duo Concertant, though neoclassical in its inspiration (Virgil) and in its musical language, goes a step beyond the other two works on the program in its spikiness and dissonance. Coming a year later than the Violin Concerto (which Stravinsky arranged for violin and piano for his tours with Dushkin), it shares some of that work’s tartness and tang, as well as the inclusion of two somewhat contrasting movements of the same title at its center. Huebl slashes her way through the Eclogue I, with what seems to be only an occasional casualty in intonation. Eclogue II recalls, however faintly, the Aria I from the Violin Concerto, and Huebl takes a long sweet glance at its arching melodies, while Wait plays the accompaniment suggestively. Together they play the Gigue fleetly if not too rapidly.
Although there’s been no shortage of recordings of this repertoire (as a start, in
28:5, I urgently recommended Leonidas Kavakos’s and Péter Nagy’s recording of the
and Duo Concertant on ECM 1855), Huebl’s with Wait, genial and acute by turns, deserves a warm recommendation, especially in view of its clear and clean recorded sound, which mimics similar qualities in the performances themselves.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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