Transcriptions for Two Pianos

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COMPOSERS: Bartók • Debussy • Stravinsky
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Transcriptions for Two Pianos
WORKS: Bartók: Two Pictures (arr. Kocsis); Debussy: Jeux (arr. Bavouzet); Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
PERFORMER: ean-Efflam Bavouzet, François-Frédéric Guy (pianos)


What a thunderingly good release this is! Not that it’s particularly noisy. Though a lot of it is loud it’s also, frequently, miraculously hushed, and everything in between. The playing throughout is uncommonly sophisticated and vivid: comprehensive in its textural luminosity and the wealth of its melodic inflection. The three-dimensionality, the spatiality, the combined depth and clarity of the sound are complemented by a quite exceptional degree of conversational vitality. The element of dialogue is tellingly used to enhance the unfurling of developing structure, emphasising the fundamental degree to which structure in music can only finally be perceived in retrospect; that it is fluid, not monolithic; moving not static.


Brilliantly conceived, stunningly executed (does piano-playing come any better than this?), mesmerisingly intense, even terrifying at times, it conjures up the spirit of an age with an immediacy that could haunt one’s dreams for weeks (all three works date from 1913). The curvaceous and lavishly coloured account of the Bartók spurns the misguided image of him as a kind of atavistic percussion freak, enthrallingly revealing his profound indebtedness to Liszt and Debussy. The Debussy itself is a marvel of colour and temporal sculpting, and the Stravinsky – truly atavistic and more pointillistic than generally acknowledged – is elemental in its power. Jeremy Siepmann