Monday, November 21, 2011

From the archives: Stravinsky

This past weekend, I played in the second season concert with my chamber orchestra. The program was the most interesting one we've done, I believe: Stravinsky Pulcinella Suite, Mahler songs (Das Knaben Wunderhorn and Das Himmlischer Leben), Debussy First Rhapsody for clarinet and orchestra, and Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker.

Playing the Stravinsky brought on some cringey memories of my attempt at the solo cello version of the piece, titled "Suite Italienne." The cello part of the orchestral version is pretty easy (even the separate "solo cello" part). Stravinsky later arranged the solo version for Piatigorsky (or rather, Piatigorsky arranged it and he and Stravinsky collaborated on the royalties), and it, on the other hand, is extremely difficult. I learned it for one of my master's degree recitals, but really, my skills at the time (both virtuosic and organizational) were not completely up to the task. I struggled with it for months and never felt satisfied. I have carried around for almost 30 years the idea that the performance was a disaster.

However, when I got home from the concert last night, I pulled out the recording of that recital, fired up the tape player, and burned a digital copy of it and was (somewhat) pleasantly surprised. It's a prim and slightly timid version, a bit light on interpretive genius, but not necessarily untrue to the composer's original conception. Stravinsky apparently wasn't terribly interested in the cello (this is his only solo work for it), so a cool, non-schmaltzy interpretation actually seems about right.

So here are a few movements. If any of you out in blogland want to hear the rest, let me know and I'll post the others. This performance took place on March 9, 1983.



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