- A Soft Shell Groove, for 2 pianos
The contents of this release are a good deal less adventurous than the marketing would suggest, but that doesn't mean it's not a fine program of duo piano music from the 19th through the 21st centuries. With the exception of the opening minimalist "A Soft Shell Groove" by one of the pianists, Francesco Tristano, all the music is played in transcriptions by the composers themselves and sounds as it would have in the days when it was commissioned by dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev (who commissioned all three of the earlier works). The best news is that these transcriptions are somewhat neglected, and Tristano and his performing partner Alice Sara Ott essentially re-create what would have been an exciting program of avant-garde music from the time just before the mass distribution of recordings. Stravinsky's condensation of the vast orchestra canvas of "Le Sacre du printemps" is especially nifty, and the duo shifts gears effectively between Stravinsky and the much more sentimental world of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." All the music is rooted in dance, but the contrasts among the four works are enormous. The concluding "La Valse" is as dark a vision of a doomed decadent society as one might wish, with waltz tunes threading their way through growing cacophony as intricately as in the orchestral version. Here and in the Stravinsky, the performers are not afraid to give the music percussive shock by banging on the keys when called for. Well worth the time of duo piano fans.