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Ravel & Stravinsky / Chloe Kiffer, Alexandre Moutouzkine

Release Date: 02/07/2020
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30103
Composer:  Maurice Ravel ,  Igor Stravinsky Performer:  Chloé Kiffer ,  Alexandre Moutouzkine Number of Discs: 1

French violinist Chloé Kiffer and Russian-American pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine bring compositions by Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky to dazzling life in a collaboration rich in rarely explored musical and personal connection.

Album Credits:

Recorded 2018 – 2019 at Steinway Hall, New York City.
Producer: Jon Feidner
Engineer: Lauren Sclafani
Assistant Engineer: Melody Nieun Hwang
Editor: Kazumi Umeda [Tracks 4 – 8, 10 – 12]
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Mixing and Mastering: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda
Read more Carrasquillo
Photos: Jiyang Chen
Piano Technician: Lauren Sclafani
Piano: Steinway Model D #597590 (New York) [Tracks 1, 2, 3 & 9]
Piano: Steinway Model D #607799 (New York) [Tracks 4 – 8, 10 – 12]


"To follow up his Steinway & Sons label debut devoted to Cuban piano music, the Russian/American pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine charts relatively familiar territory. His own transcription of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite differs from the Guido Agosti version in that it includes two extra sections (the Introduction and ‘Dance of the Firebird’), and also in regard to Moutouzkine’s more overtly virtuoso piano-writing. He subjects the ‘Infernal Dance’ and ‘Final Hymn’ to a wider array of technical fireworks, from lightning-quick scales in all directions to fistfuls of big, booming chords. It may sound like Stravinsky filtered through Liszt but Moutouzkine gets away with it on account of his frighteningly authoritative fingerwork and a sonority that can fill a stadium.

In the Three Movements from Petrushka... the pianist captures the lyrical melancholy of ‘Chez Pétrouchka’ well, not to mention his superb handling of the extensive marcato passages of ‘La semaine grassé’...

The violinist Chloé Kiffer joins for Ravel’s two sonatas. Her pure and focused tone makes for an attractive foil to Moutouzkine’s hearty pianism and their impassioned, big-boned interpretation keeps the music moving forwards and upwards, minimising its rambling qualities... The duo strike a perfect balance in the central ‘Blues’ movement, where Kiffer’s delicious portamentos are right on the money, stylistically speaking... Fine sound and brief yet well written notes by Adam Hockman."

-- Gramophone

[Chloé Kiffer and Alexandre Mouzouzkine's] first CD brings together works by Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky. The Frenchwoman of Basque origin and the Russian of Saint Petersburg have in common having lived in Paris where they had their first successes.

Alexandre Moutouzkine transcribed the Suite from Stravinsky's ballet L'Oiseau de Feu for solo piano. It is faithful to the work of the Master. We can only comment with superlatives. We have the impression of hearing the whole orchestra. His very virtuoso, pyrotechnic interpretation is sublime...

Moutouzkine makes the score [of Petrushka] shine with all its fire. His acting combines extreme precision, a sense of color, the power of touch and a sense of narrative and drama. It almost makes us forget the legendary version of Maurizio Pollini.

The violinist joins the pianist for the “two” sonatas by Maurice Ravel: the posthumous sonata, an early work quite close to the universe of Claude Debussy, and the famous Sonata for violin and piano. In both works, the duo fascinates us by leading us into a fantastic poetic reverie where the violin twirls around the piano. The virtuoso passages are surrounded with the necessary technical precision and musicality.

Kiffer and Moutouzkine are more than a duo, they are a real sonorous couple. An unwavering link between France and Russia."
Sound: 9 Liner Notes: 9 Repertory: 10 Interpretation: 10

-- Carlo Schreiber, Crescendo [Originally in French]

"I've had occasion to remark before that while Ravel's chamber music is scarce, it seems never to be played less than excellently. That applies to the Sonata in G. The only flaw I can find here is a slight diffidence about the slides in the 'Blues' middle movement: It's taken for granted now that they should be smudgier, "dirtier" than they are here, though actually the very minor stiltedness here doesn't bother me much. Kiffer also does a fine job with the posthumous sonata, a much earlier work and with a more fragile structure, but still beautiful. Moutouzkine, for his part, assists Kiffer ably in both of the Ravel works, but has Stravinsky to himself. (In the case of Firebird he is arranger as well as performer.) His preference seems to be for the extremes of the keyboard, and for sharp, rhythmicized motifs to be brought out where most of the texture is smoother. As a result, this is Firebird "through a glass darkly", with all the harmonic material present and accounted for, but weird gaps and emphases in register, and in particular most of the middle of the keyboard range hollowed out. That said, it's all both recognizable and oddly fascinating. The Three Movements from Petrouchka are Stravinsky's own familiar arrangement, played here with much elan and insouciant virtuosity, like everything else on the program."

-- Michelle Thomson, American Record Guide

Excellent performances of works that do not quite fit together in any meaningful way are presented by violinist Chloé Kiffer and pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine on a new Steinway & Sons CD. Kiffer and Moutouzkine may have personal reasons for assembling this recital, but it comes across a trifle oddly when heard straight through, the most distinctive element of the disc being the skill with which the performers handle the material. The fact is that Ravel and Stravinsky had very different musical sensibilities and approaches, and while contrasting them can be interesting, it can also be somewhat jarring – especially on a disc arranged like this one, with the two Ravel violin-and-piano works placed first and third and the two Stravinsky solo-piano ones heard second and fourth. In any case, the Ravel sonatas come across with genuine distinction here. No. 2, which dates to the mid-1920s, is the only one heard with any frequency. Its strong jazz influences are apparent throughout: the middle movement, called “Blues,” is quite unlike most other pieces by Ravel, and the outer movements are just as rhythmically uneven and attractively harmonized as the composer’s other jazz-influenced music, notably Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. The single-movement first sonata, called “Posthume,” dates to 30 years earlier than the second and is far more conventional harmonically and rhythmically. It nevertheless has a very engaging late-Romantic sensibility about it, and Kiffer’s rich violin tone is especially welcome in maximizing the piece’s effectiveness. In the two Stravinsky works for solo piano, Moutouzkine shines forth with substantial virtuosity if at times with a somewhat over-hectic approach to the material. He made his own piano arrangement of the 1919 version of the Firebird Suite, and the focus on virtuosic display is quite clear: this is music that partakes of the spirit of Liszt as much as that of Stravinsky. The suite is quite effective as a showpiece in this arrangement, although some of the warmth and sensitivity to folk heritage is missing. Still, listeners can scarcely ask for more excitement than Moutouzkine offers in the “Infernal Dance,” and the “Final Hymn” has a more-than-apt conclusiveness about it. Besides, Stravinsky was scarcely averse to a certain degree of pianistic showmanship being applied to his music. He made his own piano arrangement of three movements from Petrouchka in 1921 for pianist Arthur Rubinstein, and the movements scintillate throughout while providing plenty of challenges for the performer. Moutouzkine seems quite unfazed by the difficulties: the many rapid jumps and frequent polyrhythms appear to give him no difficulty at all. He and Kiffer are both impressive technically on this recording, whose only real failing is that the selection of music makes it come across as something of a pastiche rather than a fully thought-through and well-integrated recital.

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