Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (four-hand piano version)

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: The Rite of Spring (four-hand piano version)
PERFORMER: Fazil Say (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-81041-2
Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring at the piano, and made his own four-hand arrangement even before he had completed the orchestration. Fabulous orchestration it is, too, and equally remarkable is the way the piano can evoke it. Fazil Say, a young Turk living in France, has not just recorded all four hands himself, but has multi-tracked this recording to allow special effects like plucking the piano strings and adding sounds from the vocabulary of the ‘prepared piano’ – in other words, putting objects between the strings to transform their normal singing sound into something more like percussion. The first pizzicato effects, in the Introduction, are quite stunning. Thereafter, such special effects yield diminishing returns. Fortunately, perhaps, there are not too many of them. But there are other special treatments in the recording, which exploits three different perspectives: very close, medium and distant. At least this manipulation is acknowledged, which usually isn’t the case. It’s sometimes effective, as at the start of ‘Spring Rounds’, but like other special effects, it introduces an extraneous complication which puts Stravinsky’s own sound picture slightly out of joint.

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Since Fazil Say considers The Rite too monumental to be diminished by a coupling, those with CD Rom facilities can feel compensated with video footage of him playing Bach, Gershwin and more Stravinsky. Adrian Jack