Levanon • Martin • Poulenc • Shostakovich
Aryeh Levanon: Land of Four Languages; Martin: Petite symphonie concertante (arr. Lev); Poulenc: Concerto for Two Pianos; Shostakovich: Concertino for two pianos (arr. Lev)
MultiPiano Ensemble; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
Naxos 8.573802 60:36 mins
Given the unusual forces required to perform Frank Martin’s Petite symphonie concertante it’s perhaps not surprising that this powerful work, scored for harp, harpsichord, piano and two string orchestras, is rarely heard these days. Tomer Lev’s skilful rearrangement of the solo parts for three pianos undoubtedly gives Martin’s music a new lease of life, particularly in this warmly recorded performance which communicates great intensity and emotional commitment. The inevitable downside is the loss of the distinctive timbres of the harp and harpsichord whose writing tends to sound more amorphous when transferred to the piano. On the other hand, Lev’s decision to place a pencil inside the keyboard at the opening of the slow movement, so as to imitate the eerie strumming sound of the original harpsichord part, works wonderfully well.
In contrast to the somewhat controversial arrangement of the Martin, the Shostakovich Concertino for two pianos, with additional parts devised by Lev for string orchestra sounds completely idiomatic, and this beautifully blended performance serves the music most effectively. Likewise, the MultiPiano Ensemble delivers exuberant playing in Israeli composer Aryeh Levanon’s attractive folk-inflected Land of Four Languages.
There’s also much to admire in the MultiPiano’s Poulenc. Ensemble between the soloists, even in the most dauntingly challenging passages, is pretty well flawless, and the RPO under Dmitry Yablonsky are incisive partners relishing the music’s almost schizophrenic changes of mood. The pianists are at their most convincing in the reflective moments of the score, such as the hypnotic imitation of Balinese gamelan at the close of the first movement, whereas the more frenetic writing occasionally sounds a tad cautious.