The Rite of Spring can sound even more raw-boned and serrated on piano than in Stravinsky’s orchestral concept. The timpani of fingers against keyboard; this is no place for soft-pedalled or inappropriately decorative playing. In the hands – four of them at one piano – of Susanne Huber and André Thomet the score becomes a terrifying edifice, breathing with a directness that chills the soul. We’re used to hearing the introductory bassoon solo emerge as though from a faraway horizon, Stravinsky’s line stooping against metric regularity as it inches centre stage. But now we’re thrown bodily inside the unfolding argument, snow-blinded by the busyness of Stravinsky’s counterpoint.
Some recordings of this four-hand redux can sound overly polite and too ‘pianoey’. But Huber and Thomet make their intentions clear with “Danses des adolescents”, as those accented string chords are pummelled with pile-driver might.And ditto the crunchy reading of Debussy’s two-piano En Blanc et Noir (1915), the black and white of the piano keys symbolising the black and white morality, as Debussy saw it, of one nation imposing itself on others during the Great War. German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Monologe (1964) slices through history as source material co-opted from Bach, Mozart and Messiaen is obliged to coexist with Zimmermann’s sonically bruising post-Schoenbergian language: old certainties framed by, and melting into, the sounds of now.