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From the outset -- Etude, Op 7, 'Con moto', we are beyond any doubt in the presence of a master pianist and in Etude No 2 'Allegro brillante' (as elsewhere) Kuschnerova reveals a stunning technique and interpretative fearlessness at the service of Stravinsky's daunting demands. Etude No 3 is a contrasting slow-touch study; and No 4 in F sharp major is a volatile study in perpetual motion of legato against staccato.

Stravinsky intensifies the dynamism of Russian folk rhythms by constant alteration of meters and the use of 'instantaneous' one-accent bars with small-unit time signatures.

The capricious neoclassical Sonate (1924) makes similar demands, but skip to its central Adagietto [listen -- track 6, 0:00-0:55] and hear Kuschnerova's rock-like undercurrent; cf -- the unrelenting pursuit she brings to the Sonate finale; one of two outlying movements marked 'viertel=112' [listen -- track 7, 0:00-0:39].

Les Cinq doigts ('The Five Fingers', 1920-21) comprises eight brief, supposedly very easy, truly disarming pieces on five notes. Be advised -- your average novice might struggle with No 2 (Allegro). They're reminiscent of Book 1 from Bartók's Mikrokosmos ('Small World' -- completed 1939) though the Hungarian wrote 153 pieces arranged in order of increasing technical and musical difficulty.

A number of noted pianists (eg American, Charles Rosen) consider Serenade in A (1925) [listen -- track 19, 0:48-1:35] the 'loveliest' of Stravinsky's solo piano works. In fact, its origin was purely functional; during a first American tour in 1925, Stravinsky was engaged to record some of his music. Here is the result -- a piano suite with each movement sufficient for a single 78rpm side -- a maximum of three minutes.

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Copyright © 7 October 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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