WORKS: Three Movements from Petrushka; Serenade in A; Sonata; Ragtime
PERFORMER: Aleck Karis, Robert Lubin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BCD 9051 DDD
In one sense nearly all Stravinsky’s music is for piano, having been composed at the instrument. In the more usual sense, not much of it is. The O’Riley disc consists entirely of arrangements of theatre music, including, though, the Petrushka suite Stravinsky made for Rubinstein and certainly did intend for concert use. O’Riley, a brilliant and powerful player with an alert musical intellect, makes a strong case for the occasional performance of even a string work like Apollo on the piano. Would Stravinsky have countenanced it? He certainly had no objection to the concert performance of his ballets, oversaw their piano transcription and was a keen arranger for recitals. This whole disc is in his spirit.
In the mainstream repertoire, Karis also impresses. A wristier, less virile player than O’Riley, he has some rhythm problems in Petrushka, and curious lapses elsewhere: a rather slack ‘Galop’ (with Robert Lubin) and much-too-loud Andante in the Five Easy Pieces. But in between is much to admire. The Sonata and Serenade are lively and intelligent, and the ragtimes have a good kick (even if the Tango doesn’t). A pity he omits the 1908 studies.
Both discs are well recorded, close without being dry or dead. Buy both if you can, but the O’Riley – more unusual and pianistically superb – if strapped. Stephen Walsh