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Posted by Martin Walker on April 28, 2011, 1:46 pm
I have not heard this recording, so can only comment on Dave Billinge's reasonable assumptions concerning the portamenti ("swooping" or scooping) used by violinists accompanied by Stravinsky on older recordings and the relative slowness or swiftness. Yes, Dushkin does use discreet portamenti, evident mainly on falling intervals in the Duo Concertante. Szigeti (on a Biddulph CD with the two Prokofiev sonatas) uses them too, both up and down - his whole style is based on the contrast between jagged modernist and very lyrical legato phrasing, and of course his violin playing manifested a very noticeable slow beat or vibrato by 1945, when he recorded the Duo. His performance is much more "in your face" (a la Histoire du soldat) than the Dushkin, which is nearly all clarity, sweetness and light. I first came to love this work in the latter interpretation on a Seraphim LP - I now also have it on a Nuovo Era CD together with other pieces, including the Marche chinoise, Air du Rossignol, Danse russe etc (not the Divertimento). As to the perceived slowness, Dushkin takes 2'47 for the Danse russe, Szigeti takes 4'26 for the Russian Maiden's Song - both slower than Chen; for the Duo Dushkin takes a total of 13'57, Szigeti 13'97, so they are both considerably faster overall than Chen's 16'48 in this work - if Chen has taken hints from older recordings in the use of portamento, he obviously prefers a greater breadth in the Duo, perhaps for expressive purposes. By comparison, the recording by Gidon Kremer (Philips) takes 15'01: he takes longer over movements 2, 3 and 5 than the older violinists but speeds up elsewhere. For gentler, rapter moods I prefer Dushkin, Kremer for a more alternately acerbic and dynamically varied modernist approach and Szigeti for his individual vision.
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