Picks and Pans Review: Stravinsky: the Rite of Spring First Recording for Solo Piano
At first thought, the idea of transcribing Stravinsky's immense ballet as a piece for solo piano seems like trying to shoehorn the Pittsburgh Steelers into a sports car—and have them race it. The arsenal of instruments called for in the 1912 score (instead of the standard one tuba, for instance four were specified) was one of the largest in musical history. Stravinsky himself sketched a version for two pianists (on one keyboard) for rehearsing the dancers before the Rite's Par is premiere, but it is rarely heard, let alone recorded. Finding the four-handed version "thick and unwieldy," American composer Sam Raphling in the early 70s set about creating the first transcription for solo piano. In this digital LP, Dickran Atamian, 25, an American of Armenian descent, delivers dazzling proof that Raphling succeeded in his goal of creating "a virtuoso" showpiece. Stravinsky's haunting melodies and savage rhythms emerge with streamlined clarity, and the almost measure-for-measure faithfulness to the full score is uncanny. Yet Raphling and Atamian can't compensate for the loss of Stravinsky's ingenious deployment of the giant orchestra. Ultimately, this piano version only whets the appetite for the blaring horns, pounding tympani, shrilling piccolos and madly plucked strings of the original masterpiece.