Stravinsky in Black and White

Stravinsky in Black and White

by Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo


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Stravinsky in Black and White

When putting together the album Stravinsky in Black and White, the piano duo of Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams, smart musicians that they are, carefully examined the other versions of these pieces. As is pointed out in the notes, not only did Stravinsky publish many of his pieces in piano duo or duet reduction -- implying that a keyboard version was an afterthought -- he frequently began his compositional and orchestration process at the piano, usually with a second pianist to help fill out the sound. Bugallo and Williams looked at what instruments Stravinsky used in his final versions, not necessarily to imitate the sound of the other instruments but to borrow articulations and gestures to make the piano version more dimensional. They start with the piano, four-hand version of "The Rite of Spring," a favorite of piano duos, playing it as written, on one keyboard (Stravinsky had suggested that it be played at two pianos, and that is how it is frequently done). Bugallo and Williams emphasize the percussive nature of the music, with sharpness and energy, realizing that the downfall of this version of "Rite," despite its popularity, is that it just doesn't come across as well as the orchestral version with its many different timbres. The two, however, also manage to create more contrasting moods between the sections of the ballet than most other performers do, giving it more of the picturesque narrative that is hard to imagine without seeing the dancers. From there, Bugallo and Williams dive into virtually unexplored regions of Stravinsky's piano "reductions," plus a very brief dance specifically for piano duet. (The last -- given no mention in the notes -- dates from the same time as "The Rite of Spring" and sounds like it.) These other pieces are more successful than "Rite" as works in themselves mainly because they are much smaller in scope. The "Three Pieces," originally for string quartet, also are more percussive in this version, especially because there isn't a good piano equivalent of that smearing of notes that string players get by sliding their left hand up the string as they bow. Bugallo and Williams bring out a meditative quality in the "Septet," even in the faster, outer sections, and a hint of insouciance in the otherwise Baroquely dry "Dumbarton Oaks." The two have a knack for adding contrast in character by knowing when to alter their touch and attack in works that might otherwise be treated purely percussively, which adds to the appeal of these piano versions. This latter half of the disc is what will truly interest fans of Stravinsky and of piano duet music.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/10/2007
Label: Wergo Germany
UPC: 4010228668322
catalogNumber: 6683


  1. Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), ballet in 2 parts for piano, 4 hands
  2. Pieces (3) transcribed for piano, 4 hands (from Pieces for string quartet)
  3. Concerto, reduction for piano, 4 hands in E flat major ("Dumbarton Oaks")
  4. Septet, reduction for 2 pianos
  5. Movements (5), for 2 pianos (reduction)
  6. Tanz, for piano, 4 hands

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