Stravinsky - Rite of Spring - Serhiy Salov

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Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring - Ihor Shamo - Hutsulian Watercolours - Serhiy Salov (Piano) - Analekta AN29932

This new recording captured in February 2010 and quickly released only two months later, is all about world premières. The Hutsulian Watercolours by Ihor Shamo has never been recorded before. This particular piano arrangement by Serhiy Salov himself of the Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky has never been heard before, and if I'm not mistaking, I believe this is a first for a solo piano rendition of that mighty work. Of course there have been other bold attempts at this magnificent feat, but most were recordings of the Stravinsky penned 4-hand piano duo version, including an exciting interpretation by Ashkenazy and Gavrilov on Decca 433829 which is no longer available. There is also a solo piano version by Fazil Say on Teldec 381041, which is actually an overdubbed recording of the 4-hand arrangement.

In this astonishing and mind boggling transcription for solo piano, Serhiy (Sergei) Salov has managed to retain and even enhance the music's magic. The mysterious and bold harmonies, the savagery of the rhythms, the orchestral colours and shadows, the inner spirit of the score, all of that has been adapted directly to the keyboard and re-constructed faithfully to bring out every minute little detail ranging from the strangely evocative opening notes to the wildest passages in the Dance of the Earth. Salov must have poured over every single note in the orchestral score many times over in order to determine which ones would make the final piano cut and in which role. Serhiy Salov himself explains: "Because there is a limit to what ten fingers can accomplish, I chose to use the sostenuto pedal (the middle pedal on the piano), for example, to help clarify the textures. Stravinsky also plays around with the traditional roles of orchestral instruments, such as using horns and strings as percussion instruments, or by treating multiple strata of strings as broad aggregates of harmonics. My aim here was to convey the colour and mood of the work, for example by playing around with the range of perceived frequencies, letting low notes convey something mysterious and almost indeterminate, such as the timpani might do." Add to all this an amazing technique that can handle even the most demanding and demented passages found in this score, and you are witness to a much more intense and gripping auditory experience than listening to the orchestral version.

The Hutsulian Watercolours by the Ukrainian composer Ihor Shamo (1925-1982), could be best described as music with a very strong Slavic spirit with just a tinge of Debussy in its harmonic colours. It portrays the lives of the Hutsuls, Ukrainian mountain dwellers that are part of the local folklore. A very interesting piano suite that sets the stage very well for the Stravinsky that follows.

Salov's repertoire covers the gamut from Bach to Ustvolskaya (the recording of which is reviewed within this website) and his playing is just as riveting and illuminating from one to the next. Hopefully we will get a chance to enjoy many more recordings from him in the future, maybe even more of his own piano transcriptions including a version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker for solo piano. If you enjoy pianistic wizardry and/or riveting and still shocking Stravinsky, I can't recommend this CD enough. Many thanks to Analekta for supporting this project. The title of the CD 'The Sacred Spring of Slavs' underscores the fact that the works presented here are not only about a season of the year, but about a spiritual and physical renewal of the soul of a nation.

Jean-Yves Duperron