Anthony Marwood & Thomas Adès – Stravinsky & Dushkin

Suite Italienne [from Pulcinella]
Le rossignol – Song of the Nightingale; Chinese March
Duo Concertante
The Firebird – Berceuse; Scherzo; Ronde des Princesses
Mavra – Chanson Russe
Divertimento [from The Fairy’s Kiss]
Petrushka – Danse Russe

Anthony Marwood (violin) & Thomas Adès (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 3 November, 2008
Venue: Kings Place Hall One, London

Thomas Adès. Photograh: Nigel LuckhurstIn the early 1930s Stravinsky’s partnership with American violinist Samuel Dushkin yielded his entire output for violin and piano. When programmed as here by Anthony Marwood and Thomas Adès, it makes a most satisfying recital, a look at Stravinsky’s career in 1932 and 1933. Its earthier nature also reveals an aptitude with folk-music, and in its treatment of melody and texture occasionally approaches the music of Prokofiev.

The two performers have lived this music for some time, giving it complete as a concert as part of the Aldeburgh Festival in 2005. Here it formed the opening night of a Kings Place week entitled “Aldeburgh Highlights”. Marwood spoke of the pair’s thrill at playing in Hall One for the first time, as well as their plans to commit the repertoire to disc in the next month.

In order quickly to build his repertory with Dushkin, Stravinsky arranged excerpts from six of his stage works for violin and piano, the chosen movements given a natural expressive platform. Most obviously lyrical is the Suite Italienne, where Adès held off the sustaining pedal for the most part in the interests of clarity, the music a mixture of abrupt gestures and suddenly broad, songlike sweeps. As Marwood explained in his introduction, this was a recently discovered original version, and was performed missing part of the ‘Scherzino’. The two musicians made a superb recovery when faced with a near disaster towards the end of the finale, barely pausing for breath when Marwood’s music threatened to slip from its stand.

Anthony MarwoodOf the shorter extracts there was a flighty, exotic ‘Song of the Nightingale’ and a wonderful, throwaway end to the ‘Chinese March’, while after the interval an intensely atmospheric pairing from The Firebird yielded a beautiful tone and double-stopped clarity from Marwood.

The Divertimento works particularly well in violin and piano guise, for its combination of Tchaikovsky’s more obviously Romantic approach and Stravinsky’s lightly sardonic manner. Both combine extremely well, and with endearing bitonal melodies and accompanying drone ‘Danse Suisses’ found both performers relishing the sleights of humour. Adès, a closely attentive accompanist throughout, weighted the clumped chords to perfection in partnership with the violin’s playful melody.

Petrushka’s ‘Danse russe’ was necessarily a different story, a thrilling rush of notes in stunning unison, the virtuosity almost incidental as the pair hurried along. Meanwhile Pastorale, a favourite of the composer’s, was bittersweet and gracefully ornamented, while the ‘Chanson Russe’ from “Mavra” combined spiky piano chords with Marwood’s sinewy muted sound.

Duo Concertante, Stravinsky’s only truly original work for the two instruments, received a performance of intense concentration. Adès hurled out the opening statement with no little fire, with remarkably clear textures in the ensuing ‘Eglogue’. Throughout there was a real sense of the intensity building for the fifth and final movement ‘Dithyrambe’, which combined exquisite tension and lyrical power.

Though performing this programme for several years, Marwood and Adès continue to make new discoveries as they tour it. Most recently in Paris, an arrangement of the Tango made for Dushkin was handed over by an audience member, and here became the ideal encore piece with its sultry air.

  • Kings Place is at 90 York Way, King’s Cross, London N1 9AG
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