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Jasper Wood & David Riley - Stravinsky CD - A Review



Stravinsky: Works for Violin & Piano

Jasper Wood, violin - David Riley, piano - Endeavour Classics
A review by Rosemary Phillips

CD - Jasper Wood - Stravinsky: Works for Violin and Piano
Jasper Wood
Stravinsky: Works for Violin and Piano

Update November 2012 This month Max Frank Music releases two brand new projects by violinist Jasper Wood and pianist David Riley to commemorate their 20-year collaboration. "Chatreuse" is an elegant rendering of favourite sonatas featuring masterpieces by Mozart, Debussy and Strauss. "Stradivarius Christmas" is a fabulous collection of jazz and classical holiday selections performed by the duo and masterly arranged by composer Terry Vosbein. Congratulations Jasper and David! For more information and purchases visit Max Frank Music's web site.

It takes courage. Jasper Wood, one of the world's fastest rising young violinists, has made a recording of works that are rarely heard. Titled “Stravinsky: Works for Violin and Piano” Jasper says of the recording, “I’m always trying to promote music that is under-performed.” And with the new Endeavour Classics label, Jasper is given that opportunity to present an exciting, unconventional repertoire.

He is daring. He’s breaking barriers. And he certainly knows how to use his great talent to advantage with music that is both technically difficult, and yet emotionally stirring. With pianist David Riley, Jasper brings Stravinsky to life. These works were originally created by Igor Stravinsky in collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin as material for piano and violin recitals. Stravinsky was a great orchestrator, and Jasper says, “Here he’s trying to adapt this complex texture for just two instruments. So, David and I have to act as the winds, the brass and the strings at the same time.”

Not having heard the orchestral versions of these pieces I am not influenced by them and instead focus on and hear only the diversity of sound and melody created by both the violin and piano and the dexterity of these exceptional musicians. Such precision, power, and harmony. Such rich tones and resonance. The sound is full, like it is an orchestra.

The journey through each piece is an adventure into imagination. In imagination there is no time. The pieces span beyond time. They could be a dance in a hall, such as “Suite Italienne”, formal, regal, traditional and yet not. Or they could be a movie score, watching a bird flutter and fly, darting, a flower sway in a breeze, or dark clouds loom above. “Ill Tarantella” provides movement, fast, over distance, running, anywhere. “Chanson Russe” gives rise to images of sauntering, cheekily, through a town, any town. Because Stravinsky is known more for his ballet works I sense the dancer, the movements of the body, the feelings flowing throughout as the music is physically interpreted in every muscle, right to the fingertips.

And I see Jasper passionately lost in the music, feeling each phrase, embracing his violin with tenderness, and at times with fire. I see David, body swaying gently, fingers floating above the keys to touch at just the right moment with just the right grace. These two know the music, inside out, rather like they are in the music. They are the music.

I admit to my ignorance. I’m not very familiar with Stravinsky so this has been a wonderful learning for me. You see, even though I may have been raised with classical music, I’m not classically trained; I’m just someone who enjoys listening to classical music. And Stravinsky is not like Mozart or Brahms – entirely different - more modern. It’s not music I’m accustomed to. So the jacket notes have really helped me understand each of the pieces as I listen to them - why they were written, the textures, the feelings - rather like a course of Stravinsky 101, with Jasper and David as my instructors.

And what a delightful course. Just as Stravinsky and Dushkin collaborated together, so do Jasper and David, with sensitivity not just for the music, but for each other and their performances. It’s almost like they are one, from the opening harmonies of “Divertimento 1-Sinfonia” through to the closing grace of “Firebird-Prelude” where the two instruments soar together, gently, the piano scrolling softly, the violin trilling off into the heavens.

As the last note rises into the ethers I stare blankly at the CD player. You mean that’s the end? I guess I’ll have to start from the beginning again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve pressed the ‘start’ button. It was exciting indeed to receive a copy of the CD the other day. I’ve been listening to it ever since - while working at my desk and even while moving my office around in the late hours of the evening. The energy in the music inspired me to get up and do something. My office was a mess – so it got fixed. Thank you Jasper and David and Endeavour. Hey, I’m hooked. I have to press the ‘start’ button again.

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Copyright Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes Enterprises, 2013
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