Notes and Editorial Reviews
Keyboard virtuosity with delicacy of colour and rhythmic precision as well as the totally convincing illusion on a number of pages that O'Riley has at least three hands.
These performances are not quite what they seem. With the exception of the three movements from Petrushka, transcribed for Artur Rubinstein, they are not concert arrangements but utilitarian piano reductions of the kind that most composers make (or cause to have made by others) for rehearsal purposes. Like the Petrushka transcription, however, they show Stravinsky re-thinking his ideas in terms of another medium; and besides, like Petrushka, they were conceived at the piano.
Christopher O'Riley, justifiably if you consider that arrangements made to suit rehearsal pianists must make fairly modest assumptions about their technique, has edited the piano reductions of The soldier's tale and Apollo to put back in some of those elements of the scores that Stravinsky felt obliged to leave out. The effect is curious but alluring. Pretty well all the notes are there (including the percussion part in the tango from The soldier's tale, achieved by a discreet 'prepared piano' effect), but their recasting for piano means that their perspectives have changed. In the pas doe/ion from Apollo, for example, an accompaniment figure steps into the foreground, but it is shown to have its own beauty, and to be the root of the grace of the music's next paragraph. Playing the coda of the same ballet on the piano enables O'Riley not only to point out the jazz element in the music but, pardonably and enjoyably, to exaggerate it a trifle.
Often enough the difficulty of this enterprise lies in tailoring a crisp, an elegant or a staccato figure conceived for cornet or for solo violin to the very different sound of the piano. O'Riley almost invariably succeeds in this quite admirably. At the same time, though, the result in its very precision reminds you of Stravinsky's piano music of the period, or of his long love affair with the morethan-human precision of the mechanical piano, and thus you fall to thinking what these pieces must have sounded like when Stravinsky first played them in his studio. However O'Riley is also capable of using the amplitude of piano sound to make a pretty satisfactory substitute for the resonance of a full string orchestra in his uncommonly big-scaled and grand account of the "Apotheose" from Apollo.
So far, so fascinating for Stravinsky fans. On the strength Of the Petrushka transcriptions the record will also appeal to admirers of keyboard virtuosity. I have not often heard them better played, with delicacy of colour and rhythmic precision as well as the totally convincing illusion on a number of pages that O'Riley has at least three hands. All that and a real sense that he is having a whale of a time: he's a pianist that I greatly look forward to hearing again, especially in such a sympathetic recording as this.
-- Gramophone [5/1995]