Music for Violin
Ilya Gringolts v, Peter Laul p
Stravinsky long had a creative block about the violin, a situation that changed when he met violinist, Samuel Dushkin. Inspiration flowed and this selection contains works ranging from the austerely beautiful Pastorale – which also exists as a vocalise – to the Russian segment of this (mainly) enchanting CD consisting of extrovert arrangements made by the composer himself from Petrushka and The Firebird, to the tender Lullaby from the same ballet and the unadorned folk melody from the little known Mavra (perhaps his most Russian work.)
Ilya Gringolts and Peter Laul play them to the manner born. The arrangements from Le Rossignol, which exists as both a one-act opera – The Emperor’s Nightingale – and a tone poem, are handled with equal imagination and finesse: Gringolts’ tone is variously caressing, humorous and acerbic, but never arid, and Stravinsky’s way with chinoiserie is just as convincing as Ravel’s in his Mother Goose. The one misfire here, creatively not executionally, is the Duo Concertante, ironically the only piece composed specifically for this combination. The composer’s own description comparing it to the “pastoral” poets, presumably Virgil’s Eclogues, seems contrived.Having studied Virgil in Sixth Form Latin, I can tell you there’s little Dionysian about the dithyramb.
My favourite piece is the mordant arrangement of La Marseillaise, revealing Stravinsky’s opinion of Robespierre to be just as bleak as his take on Bolsheviks.