REVIEW

Cleverly coupled waltzes and a medievally violent and passionate Rite

13.09.2017


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Go East!
Stravinsky, Brahms, Hindemith, Manav
Gülru Ensari (piano), Herbert Schuch (piano)
C-AVI AVI8553376

 
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Duo Ensari and Schuch bring out their best in this cunningly constructed CD that starts with playfully replaced Brahms and Hindemith waltzes. That there is so much in common between these two very different composers, when it comes to their interpretation of a dance form, is in itself an enigma. One that the listener is forced to ask himself as the CD progresses; as the order of the waltzes, between each other and the two composers, have been mixed cleverly and artistically. The duo’s Brahms approach is full of attention to dynamics doing justice to the flow of the music. Notice the way the forte gradually decrescendoes towards the piano almost mimicking the movements of the dancers. The perfect dolce of the 2nd waltz invites a Hindemith, romantically interpreted. Beautiful rubato mark the accents and diminuendos of Brahms 11th waltz and by the time we reach the second Hindemith, the point of the duo is reached, that a form and tradition may well reign superior to its creator and we no longer care about the composers but focus on the dance. They make magnificent usage of their four, rather than two, hands to let the audience imagine a dance floor and, as in Brahms’ 3rd, and every forte marking is gently executed, such that the passion in Brahms’ 4th is a refined and timely one.

The game they play with Brahms and Hindemith is so convincing that soon you give up trying to figure out who enters at which point and it is not until the first bars of Ozkan Manav’s Two Anatolian Tunes that one realises the western playfulness is to give way towards the East. Very fittingly, it is the Hindemith that provides the transition and not Brahms. Manav is a contemporary Turkish composer who studied with Saygun and Usmanbas in Turkey and Lukas Foss abroad. Duality being a feature of his output, “two” tunes played by two pianists could not have been a better summary of his musical idiom, gaining “impetus from diversity and opposition”, as he calls it himself. These two tunes establish an almost latent connection with Stravinsky. Both being dances, in addition to their varying moods and rhythms, they furthermore carry within them the timelessness of folk culture expressed in modern language.

Manav is an innovative composer with a rich musical vocabulary and from dance to folk to Stravinsky, establishes the fitting bridge to the CD’s most daring piece, Stravinsky’sThe Rite of Spring. What you find is an interpretation worthy of praise and easily comparable to modern renderings such as Fazil Say or Alice Sara Ott/Francesco Tristano. The difference in essence between the three are obvious. Alice Sara Ott and her partner makes the piece heard as a technical feast, ostentatious, glorious but then too harsh, too loud, as a showcase but not yet violent enough at heart. True that Ensari/Schuch’s Dances of the Young Girls sound tame when compared to Ott/Tristano, but the way that Ensari/Schuch reserve their energy towards the end only to burst at the Ritual of Abduction makes the latter more critical. The Spring Rounds seems want of more tranquility as indeed the following “Sostenuto e peasante” desires a heavier, grave tone and darker colour in my view. Yet the duo never lose their grip on this monstrous piece and their economical use of dynamics is admirable as we approach the Ritual of the Rival Tribes. Unlike Say, who prefers a more playful, almost witty, sardonic tone, Ensari/Schuch opt for a more raw violence, not sharp but deeper. The Sage, only 4 bars in length, lacks the three different dynamic levels intended, but Dance of the Earth is fiery, beastly and the duo shows how less decibels than Ott/Tristano enables them to bring more music. These difference in musical mentality is the essence of the CD and its all yours too choose from between three duos, world apart from one another.

Listening to Ritual Action of the Ancestors, perhaps the most beautiful track of the CD, is a good example to choose your version. In the absence of fortes, Ott/Tristano are lost with a mellow sound, whereas Say offers a “Lord of the Flies” type of violence, unable to stop himself from increasing the dynamics and excitement way too early. Ensari/Schuch is the option in between; thoughtful, balanced and reserving the last kill to the last chord. Yes, just that very last chord’s perfectly timed place between the two silences would be convincing to get this very successful CD. 

Feyzi Erçin

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