Stravinsky • Borodin • Tchaikovsky • Musorgsky
Stravinsky scored his full orchestra in Petrushka to sound like one giant fairground accordion, but he can never have imagined that anyone would transcribe his ballet for two of these proletarian instruments. I hope he would be as stunned as I was: the work sounds suitably orchestral in the hands of Bjarke Mogensen and Rasmus Schjaerff Kjøller, and yet they also shed new light on it. The Danes grew up playing accordions together on the island of Bornholm, east of Copenhagen. Now they are wielding Pigini Mythos bayans – the Russian kings of accordions, for which Sofia Gubaidulina, among others, has composed – and transcribing mostly with faithfulness, but also with total understanding, the sounds they need.
Whether acting as Stravinsky’s solo flute, bassoon, trumpet, or even his percussion, the Mythos duo never make us yearn for the original. Hearing the Magician’s puppet-summons on this instrument, for example, made me consciously realise that the very same arpeggios are transformed into Petrushka’s tragic bitonal cry. The bayan’s ability to breathe means that, dynamically, the bellows-control is as accomplished as a singer’s – lovely, for instance, in the lyrical violin phrase of Tchaikovsky’s Miniature Overture. A superb Russian programme, then, dazzlingly recorded and well- annotated in the booklet notes. Awards should follow.