Violin Concerto; Three Pieces for String Quartet; Concertino for String Quartet; Double Canon; Pastorale; Apollon Musagète – Apollo’s Variation
Isabelle Faust (violin); Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902718 43:39 mins
Stravinsky and the violin were not easy bedfellows. He used the instrument frequently and, being Stravinsky, to good effect, but his distrust of virtuosos left him wary. His Violin Concerto is consequently a singular masterpiece eschewing the showy norms of the genre. Building on her distinctive and distinguished period instrument recording of The Soldier’s Tale, Isabelle Faust gives the Concerto the same treatment with superb results. Joined by Les Siècles and the irrepressible François-Xavier Roth, the instrumental colour is simultaneously more varied and more subtle. The gut strings imbue Faust’s solo part with the limpid texture of finely wrought glassware rather than hard steel. The wind instruments gurgle delightfully in the ‘Toccata’, the final ‘Capriccio’ opens with wonderfully squeaky-clean chirruping, and the two Aria movements have a smoky, veiled quality.
Faust surrounds this groundbreaking account of the Concerto with a selection of modest chamber miniatures. True, the brevity of the Three Pieces for String Quartet bely their radicalism and importance, and it is good for Stravinsky devotees to have the Double-Canon, Concertino and Pastorale in such strong period instrument performances, but these are mostly shavings from the master’s workbench. It can be deduced only from the booklet photographs that Faust performs in these pieces. She opens the disc with the solo ‘Variation of Apollo’ from Apollon Musagète, a bold and effective choice. If only Les Siècles could have recorded the complete ballet, possibly presented after a suitable gap to complement the tautly focused but modestly proportioned programme given here.