Jasper Wood and David Riley - Stravinsky CD - Review
UPDATE: Jasper Wood, violin, and David Riley, piano, have collaborated for over 25 years for recordings and performance. See the link below to their websites for more information on their various recordings and concerts.
Stravinsky: Works for Violin & Piano
Jasper Wood, violin - David Riley, piano - Endeavour Classics
A review by Rosemary Phillips - 2003
It takes courage. Jasper Wood, one of Canada's top 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,
Stravinsky: Works for Violin and Piano
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.
For more information visit Jasper
Wood's web site.
See also David Riley's web site.
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