I have thus purchased nine tracks from the new Pentatone album of Tchaikovsky ballet music transcribed for piano duo. I am playing them as I draft this.
Fantastic music and great sounding in DSD512 format!
[...] The Osaka-born sisters Mari and Momo Kodama, who grew up and had their musical training in Europe, are both new to me. That said, Dominy Clements welcomed the latter’s solo album, Point and Line, and Michael Cookson found the former’s Beethoven concertos with Kent Nagano and the DSO Berlin to be ‘impressive’, if not really competitive. Mari has also recorded the Beethoven sonatas and a new Falla album with Kazuki Yamada and the OSR, both for Pentatone. In their spirited preamble to the booklet notes – the word ‘fun’ appears several times – the sisters confirm they’ve played together before, but that this is their first recording as a duo.
These iconic ballet suites have certainly attracted some prestigious arrangers for piano duo, among them Anton Arensky, Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninov and, in our own time, the Cypriot pianist-composer Nicolas Economou. Solo versions include pianist-conductor Mikhail Pletnev’s Nutcracker suite, attractively played by Alexandra Dariescu on a recent Signum release. In another league entirely is the complete ballet, arranged and played by Stewart Goodyear. That Steinway album – recorded by Sono Luminus at their studios in Boyce, Virginia – is a musical and sonic treat; indeed, it’s a must for Tchaikovsky fans and pianophiles alike.
Rachmaninov’s piano four hands arrangement of The Sleeping Beauty, begun in 1890, required a number of corrections and revisions before Tchaikovsky was satisfied with it. The Kodamas have chosen just five numbers, but those interested in hearing the full version might be interested in this recording from New Classical Adventure. I hope to review it some point, although the download’s lack of documentation is a powerful incentive not to. At least Pentatone are scrupulous about providing Pdf booklets which, in general, are pleasing to look at and good to read. [...]
"The performance of Mari and Momo Kodama are of particular interest in that they do not merely play the notes as dished up by the arrangers. Using the symphonic scores to understand and subsequently extract the transcriptions from their original context, they add another dimension. A dimension of fairytale through suggestive, but elegant and refined playing, with a judiciously coloured palette of make believe, with even some interspersed ‘mystique’ elements, making these wonderfully ‘transduced’ performances, which many are at best familiar with in their orchestral versions, so intimately and irresistibly enjoyable. I have a great respect for what Mari does, but had never heard Momo before. Judging by the result she is of equal stature. And the flow of both sisters’ playing demonstrates such a convincing degree of togetherness that it is impossible to hear who is in the lead, notwithstanding the excellent multi-channel recording. Both grands sound warm and Grand. Performance, Stereo Sonics and Multichannel Sonics: 5 out of 5 Stars rating."