Stravinsky: Sonata for Two Pianos; Concerto for Two Pianos; The Rite of Spring

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Sonata for Two Pianos; Concerto for Two Pianos; The Rite of Spring
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith, Peter Hill (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553386
Whether you play them yourself or remain content to sit back and enjoy the recordings, Stravinsky’s two-piano compositions are both a major contribution to the 20th-century keyboard literature and an intriguing aspect of his own artistic persona. The major work on these discs is his four-handed transcription of The Rite, but the no less valuable extra items are the two-piano Sonata and Concerto, played by Frith and Hill.

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Reasoned and precise, their attitude proves admirable in both. The Sonata flows limpidly to its playful conclusion. The Concerto unbends to their purpose with an expansiveness that at times suggests Rachmaninov, though the dry acoustic also recalls an old-fashioned, Puritan view of Stravinsky’s neo-classicism. It’s certainly less appropriate to The Rite than the richly coloured ambience of the Quebec-based Ouellet/Murray duo. In impressionistic parts such as the two introductions, the latter’s extra resonance is a great advantage over their rivals, but Frith and Hill have the edge in formal subtlety in the aggressively rhythmic ‘Dance of the Earth’.

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Claire Ouellet and Sandra Murray complete their collection with Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin and seven pieces from Mikrokosmos, important additions to the library, despite the confusing, bilingual booklet notes. Nicholas Williams