Stravinsky: Concerto for piano and wind instruments

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Igor Stravinsky
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky: Concerto for piano and wind instruments
WORKS: Concerto for piano and wind instruments; Capriccio; Movements; Concerto in D; Song of the Volga Boatmen; Canon (on a Popular Tune)
PERFORMER: Steven Osbourne (piano); BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra/Ilan Volkov

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Ilan Volkov’s Stravinsky recordings on Hyperion are already building a valuable and intelligent series. Billed as the complete music for piano with orchestra, this third disc also includes a stylish account of the Concerto in D and is framed by a couple of short rarities in the form of Stravinsky’s orchestral arrangement of the Song of the Volga Boatmen and the late Canon (on a Russian Popular Tune).

With Steven Osborne as soloist, the concertante works are in exceptionally good hands (can we anticipate a disc of the solo works?). After the Capriccio’s grandiose opening, Osborne’s tight control of the piano’s insistent, driving textures provides a firm foundation for the opening movement’s unexpected humanity and charm. The sound is marginally less immediate than previous releases, but Osborne’s deft path through the meandering arabesques and embellishments of the Andante rapsodico is a masterclass in judging the extent to which the piano should variously dominate or blend with the orchestra.

In this context, the late Movements comes across as a different musical emphasis, rather than a radical break in aesthetic. Certainly this thoughtful and warm performance should win this underplayed work new friends. If the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra are at their best in these sparse textures, greater clarity would be welcome in the Concerto, where the orchestra’s complex echoes do not quite match Osborne’s drive.

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Christopher Dingle