WORKS: The Soldier’s Tale Suite; Les cinq doigts; Concertino for Piano Duet; Three Easy Pieces for Piano Duet; Five Easy Pieces for Piano Duet; Four Russian Songs; Berceuses du chat; Pribaoutki
PERFORMER: Len Vorster, Siro Battaglin (piano), Ingrid Silveus (mezzo-soprano); Schirmer Ensemble/Brett Kelly
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554367
Most of these pieces were composed during the First World War and show Stravinsky, in the wake of The Rite of Spring, finding obvious enjoyment in cultivating the intimate art of the miniature. The most successful performances here are the songs, which are stylishly and sympathetically presented by Ingrid Silveus. (My own favourites among them are the Cat’s Cradle Songs, in which the voice is accompanied by an appropriately feline ensemble of three clarinets.)
I was much less impressed by the piano pieces, whose charm wholly eludes the performers Len Vorster and Siro Battaglin. The Five Easy Pieces written for piano duet – which include what Stravinsky once called an ‘ice-cream’ waltz in homage to Satie, and a portrait of Diaghilev as a circus ringmaster – are played with a particular lack of sensitivity.
The most substantial work by far is the suite from The Soldier’s Tale; but this, alas, is the composer’s utilitarian arrangement for violin, clarinet and piano – a poor substitute for the original seven-piece band with its biting sounds of trumpet, trombone and percussion. This performance is in any case a somewhat workaday rendering, rather undercharacterised and lacking in brilliance. Misha Donat