Prokofiev Visions Fugitives; Stravinsky Apollo; Concerto in D
Given the ubiquity of Rudolf Barshai’s Shostakovich string quartet adaptations, it’s something of a puzzle that there haven’t been more recordings of his remarkable take on Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives. Now that Yuri Bashmet has asked Roman Balashov to transcribe the five piano pieces that Barshai himself omitted, could it be that the set will take off as it deserves?
The polystylistic Visions fugitives have always responded well to a variety of approaches. Pianists such as Emil Gilels tended to “firm them up”, imparting an elegant solidity to the invention which you won’t find here. The playing of the Moscow Soloists is nothing if not finely chiselled but Bashmet encourages a degree of planned instability and expressive distortion, pointing up the fleeting, transient nature of the music. While some may question why an exquisite melodic inspiration like the “Commodo” (tr 21) should not be left to speak for itself, the results here are sensationally beautiful in their own way. The version by the latter-day Moscow Chamber Orchestra under Constantine Orbelian (Chandos, 11/98) is comprehensively outclassed.
Bashmet’s micro-management of nuance, vibrato and bowing technique suits Stravinsky rather less well and I can imagine some listeners rejecting this Apollo out of hand. We can be sure that a composer who went so far as to portray his music as “essentially powerless to express anything at all” and campaigned to deny his champions the possibility of “interpretation” would have found it impossibly mannered. But perhaps the notes on the page have a right to their own story.
The recording is vivid and lifelike, capturing some extraneous breathing from an extraordinarily accomplished if small-scale ensemble. Over to you.