Stravinsky: Ragtime; Octet; Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet; The Soldier’s Tale (Suite for Violin, Clarinet & Piano); Pastorale; Concertino; Septet; Epitaphium

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Ragtime; Octet; Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet; The Soldier’s Tale (Suite for Violin, Clarinet & Piano); Pastorale; Concertino; Septet; Epitaphium
PERFORMER: Dimitri Ashkenazy (clarinet); European Soloists Ensemble/Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 448 177-2 DDD
The earliest piece on this disc is the delightful Pastorale, written in 1907, when Stravinsky was 25; the latest is the enigmatic Epitaphium, written 52 years later. In between come a clutch of pieces from that fascinating period of Stravinsky’s life when he was moving from Russianism to neo-classicism via jazz. The remaining two, the Octet of 1923 and the Septet of 1953, are both firmly in Stravinsky’s witty, poised neo-classical style, though the Septet is moving towards new, tougher territory.

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Stravinsky himself made classic recordings of these pieces in the Sixties, now reissued on CD on the Sony label. These are always electric, if sometimes a little untidy, and so closely recorded you feel the players are sitting in your lap. By that lofty benchmark this new recording measures up superbly. Tempos are just as brisk and alert as Stravinsky’s, the accents just as incisive. These qualities are combined with a beautiful soft-grained tone – a nice change from Stravinsky’s lemon-sharp sound. The Septet in particular came up very fresh: in the composer’s version the middle movement felt gruff and crabbed; here it has a mysterious grave quality, as of a procession seen through a veil. A wonderful disc. Ivan Hewett