COMPOSERS: Stravinksy; Raskatov
LABELS: Seattle Symphony Media
WORKS: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Raskatov: Piano Concerto ‘Night Butterflies’
PERFORMER: Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot
CATALOGUE NO: SSM1005
Alexander Raskatov (b1953) has been championed by Gidon Kremer and his Bulgakov-based opera A Dog’s Heart was recently staged by English National Opera. And his music was admired by Alfred Schnittke, whose phantasmagorical effects are recalled in this Piano Concerto, ‘Night Butterflies’. Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives appears another precursor for the Concerto’s structure: a series of short, aphoristic pieces ranging through ethereal, playful, bizarre, sinister, and pugnacious. Brilliantly orchestrated, this is as much a concerto for members of the Seattle Symphony orchestra as much as for the soloist, Tomoko Mukaiyama, for both of whom the work was specifically written, in 2013. The Piano Concerto’s nostalgic character becomes fully evident in its culminating folksong from northern Russia, redolent of the homeland that Raskatov – now living near Paris – recalls from his childhood over 50 years ago.
Hearing this work followed by the primeval-sounding high bassoon of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is curiously affecting – as if one has passed through a mysterious portal to ancient Rus. There is much that is excellent about Morlot and the Seattle Symphony’s performance – for instance, in the riotous ‘Ritual of the Rival Tribes’ the very clear delineation of fanfare and folksong – aided by very natural-sounding yet spectacular recorded sound: spacious and impressive-sounding for the opening of Part II, and with great impact for the final sacrificial dance. Yet this performance misses the ferocity of such memorable accounts as Igor Markevitch’s with the London Symphony Orchestra, or François-Xavier Roth with Les Siècles playing Stravinsky’s original pre-publication score (reviewed September 2014). Still, Raskatov is worth hearing for those wanting to hear how Russian music has evolved from that seminal work.