STRAVINSKY Music for Violin, Vol 2
When reviewing the first volume of Ilya Gringolts’s Stravinsky series (A/17), I cited Anthony Marwood (Hyperion, 3/10) as the main rival, principally because of the pianist Thomas Adès, whose ability to summon tonal variety wasn’t quite matched by Gringolts’s Peter Laul. In general I’d hold fast to that assessment; though in this particular context, with much of what’s included not actually involving the piano, it’s less of an issue. The major work with piano is the Divertimento after The Fairy’s Kiss (also the genesis of the Ballad), bittersweet music that finds in Gringolts and Laul near-ideal interpreters.
The featured version of the Pastorale for violin and winds brings a folklike dimension to the piece and it’s good to have ‘Apollo’s Variation’ from Apollon et les Muses as a sort of supplement to the Violin Concerto. Brief though it is (just 3'00"), it contains some of Stravinsky’s most eloquent writing for the instrument. In the concerto’s first ‘Aria’ Gringolts weaves his way among his orchestral colleagues like a glow-worm careering through woodland thickets. Dima Slobodeniouk’s Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia are alert to detail throughout the work whereas Laul is at his best in the Suite italienne – a version of the Pulcinella music not to be confused with the technically more demanding Suite for violin and piano included in Vol 1 – where the lissom and lyrical slant of Gringolts’s approach is appealing. His chording in the affecting unaccompanied Elégie (originally for viola but here played a fifth higher) is immaculate and he offers a cockily smiling account of the Tango where Laul also enters fully into the spirit.
Returning to the Violin Concerto, I should also mention a memorable version by Zhi-Jong Wang with the Philharmonia under Thomas Sanderling (Accentus – to be reviewed in the next issue), recorded just a couple of months after this Gringolts performance, utterly different in style, vibrant, warm and expressive where Gringolts is svelte, bright and ethereal. Wang’s coupling is a romantically inclined account of the Sibelius Concerto, so if it’s the Concerto you want rather than an all-Stravinsky programme, Wang will also do nicely; but when it comes to choosing a thorough survey of Stravinsky’s violin music, Gringolts’s mastery of the composer’s idiom makes his CD and its earlier companion credible front-runners, or at the very least level-pegging with the excellent though rather less comprehensive Marwood collection. BIS’s SACD sound is superb.