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Dancing with the Orchestra - Transcriptions by Stravinsky, Bartók, Falla, Ravel
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Petrushka - Three movements (1910-11, arr. composer, 1921) Danse russe [2.49]; Chez Pétrouchka [05.32]; La semaine grasse [09.09]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Dance Suite for orchestra, Sz 77 (1923 arr. composer, 1925) [16.34]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El amor brujo (Love the Magician) - Three Scenes (1914-15 arr. composer, 1916) Pantomime [04.17]; Dance of Terror [02.20]; Ritual Fire Dance [04.10]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La Valse (1920) [13.54]
Davide Cabassi (piano)
rec. 17-19 December 2004, Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich, Germany. DDD
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 82876 76969-2 [59.02]



Hats off to Arte Nova, part of Sony-BMG records, for consistently interesting releases of unusual repertoire. This release features well known orchestral music from in the lesser known guise of the composers’ own  piano arrangements.

The 2005 Cliburn Competition finalist and prize-winner Davide Cabassi made his orchestral debut at the age of thirteen with the RAI Symphony Orchestra in Milan. He has also collaborated with the Munich Philharmonic, the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen, and the Russian Chamber Philharmonic, as well as with several Italian orchestras, working with such conductors as Gustav Kuhn, James Conlon, Asher Fisch, and Vladimir Delman, among others. In recital, Cabassi has been engaged by most of the prominent musical associations of his native country, including Serate Musicali and Societa dei Concerti in Milan and Festival Pianistico in Brescia and Bergamo. Cabassi has played concerts in Austria, China, France, Germany, Japan, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia and Switzerland, highlighted by appearances in Salzburg’s Mozarteum, the Gasteig in Munich, and Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow.

As a finalist in the Twelfth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Cabassi has embarked on three years of concert engagements throughout the USA. During the 2005/2006 concert season Cabassi will perform extensively with the American Symphony Orchestras from Big Spring in Texas and Enid from Oklahoma.

Piano arrangements of orchestral works were long regarded as an insignificant genre but ambitious transcriptions can be works of art in their own right. Proof of the high artistic standard of the transcriptions is the fact that the composers of the original works arranged them with their own hands.

Stravinsky transcribed three movements from Petrushka in 1921, from his second ballet for the Ballets russes of Diaghilev. In 1925 Bartók made an arrangement of his Dance Suite; a work that is highly cosmopolitan in character. Falla’s 1916 arrangement of the three Scenes from El amor brujo came as a direct response to the popularity of the ballet which was written straight after his period of study in Paris. The 1920 piano version of La Valse is not an arrangement: it was written by Ravel at the same time as the orchestral score.

The youth and enthusiasm that Davide Cabassi transmits to these four piano transcriptions makes for a truly thrilling recital. The structure of the recital and its effect on the spirit is an inextricable part of the vitality of these interpretations. Cabassi plays the Petrushka movements magnificently and manages to transform the score into a restless mood picture. The cosmopolitan character of Bartók’s Dance Suite allows Cabassi to display his extensive palette of colours to great effect. The gypsy elements so infused in Falla’s three Scenes from the ballet El amor brujo’ (Love, the Magician) are marvellously portrayed by Cabassi who plays with a great command of rhythm and dynamics. In the final work Ravel’s La Valse I feel that Cabassi could have brought out more of the Viennese waltz rhythms that are so prevalent in the score.

These piano arrangements were not familiar to me before receiving this release and a quick check revealed that there are not too many alternative versions available in the catalogue. In the Stravinsky arrangement of the three movements from Petrushka the best known account is contained on Maurizio Pollini’s recital disc of twentieth century piano music on Deutsche Grammophon ‘The Originals’ 447 431-2. Bartók specialist Zoltán Kocsis has recorded an acclaimed account of the piano arrangement of the Dance Suite on Volume 7 of his complete series of Bartók piano works on Philips 464 639-2.

The recorded sound is well caught by the Arte Nova engineers and the annotation is concise and reasonably informative. 

A very enjoyable recital from Davide Cabassi who is certainly a name to follow. 

Michael Cookson





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