Melba Recordings

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Stravinsky: Diversions

11/11/2010
Classique News (France)
Carl Fisher

Melba presents the subtle and inspired chamber music making of two young artists: Ray Chen and Timothy Young. The young duo masters all of this music’s tension as well as its sense of release with a persuasively intelligent approach (Sample the versatility of Danses suisses and even more so of the 5 sections of the Duo concertante of 1932.)

Entering the spotlight at the Queen Elisabeth Competition (where he won first prize in 2009), the Taiwanese violinist Ray Chen trained at the Curtis Institute of Music as a student of Aaron Rosand. Together with the Australian pianist Timothy Young he tackles here the music for violin and piano by Stravinsky. The two interpreters are as one in the nostalgic, innocent moods of the Serenata and in the rhythmic jubilation of the Tarantella from the Suite after Pergolesi. They combine even more strongly in the subtle, luminous atmosphere of the Divertimento, uniting ideally the bitter darkness with the light, particularly due to the warm and fluid sonority of the violinist and his partner at the piano. Nothing is ever too laboured or emphatic. The dance takes on more of a devilish rhythm and, with laughter in Stravinsky never being very far from a sardonic grin, one has to play with panache and dynamic richness in order to get to what is at the heart of the ambivalence in Stravinsky’s music. The young duo masters all of this music’s tension as well as its sense of release with a persuasively intelligent approach (Sample the versatility of Danses suisses and even more so of the 5 sections of the Duo concertante of 1932.) Dushkin so impressed the composer that the latter transposed a number of his early ballets – not least The Firebird, Petrushka and The Nightingale – for piano and violin, and wrote a series of new works to form the program for a tour of Europe, France and England in 1934 when Stravinsky himself played the piano.

Pearls of the Stravinksy/Dushkin duo

In the Melba recording the virtuosity of the two interpreters is allowed to shine, thanks to a sustained inwardness that avoids artifice. Besides, it’s this consistent oscillation between humour tinged with irony, recklessness and melancholic intoxication that provides all the flavour in these thoughtful, accomplished performances. (Sample the tranquil and active lyricism of the last piece Danse russe.) In this very well-balanced selection the expatriate Stravinsky seems to be revisiting – not without some soul-searching and brief moments of anxiety – all the lost joys and desires felt by the young child in Russia. This program is as timely as its contents are rare. Stravinsky only came to the violin and chamber music in the 1930s thanks to the admiration he felt for the unusual virtuoso Samuel Dushkin in Berlin. Here is the accomplished result of two subtle, spirited artists who play with admirable musicality.