Richard Fairman
Financial Times
February 2018

Stravinsky’s version of The Rite of Spring for piano four hands holds a special fascination for pianists. It can be huge fun getting a hands-on experience of how how this blazing orchestral showpiece might turn out at the piano, but most amateurs will only manage a few pages before they give up. Hand it to the professionals and the piece goes off like a rocket. There have been a few notable recordings recently and here is another duo of top pianists giving it their own dazzling slant in the context of a fine, all-Stravinsky disc. Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin play the composer’s original four-hand arrangement (with a few later additions) on two pianos and make it as high-octane a display of fireworks for ten fingers as it is with a full orchestra. Their take on the music is glittering, sharp-edged, pulsing with adrenaline. Put them in a race and they would come flying across the finishing-line in first place. This is playing that pushes at the limits of what is physically possible, and yet it is still impressively exact. Andsnes and Hamelin have nothing to fear from the competition, not even the superstar duo of Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich, delightfully splashy and spontaneous though they are—probably not what Stravinsky had in mind. Andsnes and Hamelin also play the Concerto for two solo pianos, a substantial Stravinsky score and one well worth getting to know. Here is every side of Stravinsky’s persona, not just the cool neo-classicism of the period when he wrote it, but flashes of the fantasy of The Firebird and the violence of The Rite of Spring. Together with three colourful, short Stravinsky arrangements the programme adds up to a brilliant album.