I was somewhat baffled by this CD. It’s clearly a promotional tool for Stuart & Sons Pianos on the new Leatham Music label, produced by Gregory Lewis and engineered by Trevor Doddridge in All Saints Anglican Church, Albury. Fair enough, but the title, Beauties and Beasts, becomes rather confusing. The inclusion of the four-handed arrangement of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite is fine, especially since one movement is called Beauty and the Beast.
The next piece, Part 1 of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, is understandable, although the abrupt, unresolved ending makes it more like a “bleeding chunk”. I was also reminded of Stravinsky’s remark that Karajan’s first interpretation of his Rite of Spring was a “pet savage, not a real one!”
The second two works on the CD hardly reinforce the theme: Schubert’s Waltzes, Op 18A, radiate Biedemeier charm and Gemütlichkeit but are hardly in the same ethereal world as Ravel’s Mother Goose and I can’t for the life of me see anything primitive, let alone bestial, in the selection of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, which complete the disc. Despite the rather jolly, not to say robust, appearance of the pianists, the playing is sensitive and imaginative, especially in the Ravel and the sound is excellent.
Where I think the CD falls down is when Igor Machlak mentions in the liner notes that the piano has four pedals (instead of the usual three) and four extra keys at each end of the keyboard. Surely a musical justification for using the Stuart Piano would have been in order.