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Stravinsky & Dushkin; Ades & Marwood
Opening Chamber Music Concert Wigmore Hall
9 September 2006

Suite italienne arr. from Pulcinella
Song of the Nightingale and Chinese March from The Nightingale
Duo Concertante

Berceuse, Scherzo and Prelude et Ronde des Princesses from The Firebird
Chanson Russe (Russian Maiden's Song)
Danse Russe from Petrushka

Anthony Marwood violin Thomas Ades piano

Wigmore Hall opened its Chamber Music Series with a historical reconstruction of the famous association between Stravinsky & Samuel Dushkin, which led to the composition of the Duo Concertante (the only original work in the programme) and the Violin Concerto*. In their earlier recitals together they played arrangements "padded out with Bach and Stravinsky's Piano Sonata" (Ivan Hewett), but afterwards Stravinsky "created enough new music to fill a recital" and that was the basis of tonight's programme.

Ades' piano playing stole the centre of attention; he is a brilliant pianist who should be heard far more often at the keyboard. Marwood faithfully replicated Dushkin's style which pleased Stravinsky, "executant rather than interpreter", and his sparing use of a fast vibrato suited the baroque-derived Suite Italienne and the austere Duo Concertante (the former had me thinking that Stravinsky would have welcomed the vibrato-less playing by today's period-style violinists that has now become de rigeur).

The Pulcinella recycling for violin outstayed its welcome - there are too many versions and they get over-exposure; best remains the full ballet score with singers - but there were delights in the arrangements to follow. The transcriptions from The Nightingale were delicious and sounded newly minted in this version, which allowed Marwood to indulge his tone more luxuriantly. And the Tchaikovsky-derived Divertimento was the high spot of the recital, a reminder that The Fairy's Kiss which "gestures towards a Tchaikovskian fullness while adhering to a wholly Stravinskian leanness" (Hewett) is one of Stravinsky's subtlest creations and deserves to be heard much more often, in either version.

A memorable semi-historical recreation (a good idea for thematic recitals) which seemed destined to emerge on CD? But I should have enjoyed the evening more if it had been adjusted to allow Marwood a rest and Ades a solo spot to give us the Sonata or - even better - the Serenade.

This fascinating historical recital clashed with the Last Night of the Proms, which gave me to think that the BBC's programmers might well consider reconstructing one of Sir Henry Wood's earliest Promenade Concerts for next year's First Night? Only a few of us live to remember Sir Henry, whose statue presides at RAH (I recall vividly his Brandenburg 3 with the full BBCSO strings) and even fewer knew the bombed Queen's Hall, the Proms original home.

* Dushkin's recordings, which I knew as 78s, are available on Andante: - - The disc devoted to Stravinsky's work with Samuel Dushkin preserves an important artistic partnership - - The arrangements from Firebird, Petrushka, Pulcinella and Song of the Nightingale are encore pieces as perfect in their way as the best of Fritz Kreisler; they ought to be heard more often.

See also
Richard Whitehouse in Classical Source

© Peter Grahame Woolf