by Illiam Sebitz
Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts has released a new project of nineteen Stravinsky compositions, transcribed for violin and piano titled, Stravinsky: Music for Violin, Vol. 1 and marks his return to the BIS label. Gringolts violin playing has been winning over audiences with his virtuosic and sensitive interpretations, and his never-ending search for new musical challenges. Gringolts regularly performs as a soloist, as he has devoted himself to the great orchestral repertoire, he also explores contemporary and seldom-played works.
Stravinsky did not compose any violin and piano pieces until he met violinist Samuel Dushkin. Their collaboration resulted in a violin concerto in 1931 and they developed a recital program that they performed together on tours. Duo concertan was Stravinsky’s only original compositions specifically for violin and piano, he stated in his autobiography he did not have any “great liking” for the combination.
Joining Gringolts, is renowned Russian pianist Peter Laul. The duet is well paired and both are exceedingly virtuosic and passionate in their playing. The transcriptions on the disc are from Stravinsky’s well-known works including: The Firebird, Petrushka and Le rossignol. The majority of the arrangements were made for and in collaboration with Dushkin. However, some are from the 1920s for the violinist Paul Kochanski.
“Pastorale” begins the program. The song without words was written by Stravinsky in 1907. Stravinsky composed the piece while under the supervision of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and dedicated it to Rimsky-Korsakov’s daughter, Nadia. Originally scored for soprano and piano, Gringolts effortlessly brings out the vocal qualities of his violin technique to convey the melody. Playing with dynamics and controlling his vibrato throughout the piece is the cornerstone to this wonderful version.
“Duo concertant: IV. Gigue” is splendidly performed. The two perform with passion, clearly articulating the rhythmic diversity and cleverness of Stravinsky’s score. Gringolts’ tone is rich and his articulation is crisp. Laul’s accompaniment is always sensitive, following Gringolts dynamics, while keeping each motivic layer clear and distinct in it phrasing.
Stravinsky: Music for Violin, Vol. 1 is a balanced collection of Stravinsky’s works done by two outstanding performers, showing the range of interpretation as well as artistic technique that is available within Stravinsky’s works. Gringolts’ playing is so full of passion and the recording quality of this duet is uplifts the recording to new heights. Highly Recommended.
Tracks to sample first: all five selections from “Duo concertan,” “Pastorale,” “Le chant du rossignol” and “Petrushka: Danse russe.” The song to take a chance on is “L’oiseau de feu, KC 10: Berceuse.”