Compelling accounts put an overlooked composer back on the map

Isabelle Faust: Stravinsky


The Strad Issue: May 2023

Description: Compelling accounts put an overlooked composer back on the map

Musicians: Isabelle Faust (violin) Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth

Works: Stravinsky: Violin Concerto in D; Apollo: excerpt; Three Pieces for string quartet; Concertino for string quartet; Pastorale for violin, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet and bassoon; Double Canon for string quartet

Catalogue number: HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902718

Period instruments shed new light on a 20th-century master

François-Xavier Roth’s re-creation of historically aware performances of Stravinsky’s music with his period-instrument Les Siècles focuses here on the Violin Concerto. He enlists as soloist Isabelle Faust, who, aided by Les Siècles’ unique instrumental colours, clear articulation and diaphanous textures, sheds new light on this essentially neo-Classical work. Faust is at her most incisive in the spiky, taut outer movements, exchanging thematic material freely with the orchestra in the Toccata and cutting more of a virtuoso path in the jovial, rhythmically driven Capriccio; and she brings fantasy and lyricism to the two Arias, particularly Aria II’s fluid, melancholy melismas. The truthful, well-balanced recording expertly preserves the vivid timbres offered by the orchestra’s early 20th-century French wind instruments.

The sense of Stravinsky’s concerto as a chamber work aligns comfortably with the decision to complete the disc with apposite examples of his actual chamber music. The resultant programme may only last around 44 minutes yet still has much to offer. Faust is the elegant protagonist in an excerpt from Apollo, joins a group of four reed winds in the wistful Pastorale and leads a string quartet in deft accounts of the Concertino, Double Canon and the experimental Three Pieces.