AVENTURE PIANO DUO | RACHMANINOFF/BRAHMS | VITALI GAVROUC, ADA GORBUNOVA
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
1. I. Non allegro (11:32)
2. II. Andante con moto (Tempo di valse) (9:22)
3. III. Lento assai – Allegro vivace – Lento assai. Come prima – Allegro vivace (13:33)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Sonata for 2 Pianos, Op.34b
4. I. Allegro non troppo (10:51)
5. II. Andante, un poco Adagio (8:16)
6. III. Scherzo: Allegro (7:30)
7. IV. Finale: Poco sostenuto – Allegro non troppo (10:54)
Total Time: 71:59
This is the debut album of the AVENTURE PIANO DUO, formed by two charismatic, ambitious young pianists, Vitali Gavrouc and Ada Gorbunova. Both are graduates of the Moscow Conservatory, outstanding musicians with a bright, individual style and multifaceted field of interests. They are searchers, researchers, rebels, travelers, cosmopolites, and epicureans. Their mutual passion for knowledge determined the name of the ensemble – adventure, creativity and originality as a lifestyle.
It felt fitting to include Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances” on this debut album, since it was instrumental in the birth of Aventure Piano Duo, when for their final chamber music exam at the Moscow Conservatory, Ada and Vitali challenged themselves with this late masterpiece, considered to be one of the pinnacles of two-piano repertoire. The work became a spectacular hallmark of Aventure Piano Duo and clearly marked the direction of the budding ensemble. The appeal to symphonic music and an addiction to large forms is apparent in both the duo’s “orchestral” sound, their attention to timbres, diversity of colors and characters, as well as, their repertoire, which more often then not, includes works arranged from, or inspired by, orchestral and vocal music – such as “Carmen” by Bizet, “Daphnis and Chloe” by Ravel, “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, “Nocturnes” by Debussy, etc.
We try to make our performances three-dimensional, colorful, and diverse in their intonation and timbre, – Vitali says. Nowadays, a piano ensemble is commonly conceived as a single four-hand entity that should seek to maximize the sound fusion effect and strive to produce a smooth palette of lower, middle and upper registers. Our concept is essentially quite opposite, with stereophony just as crucial. In our overall musical fabric, we want to weave in a clear understanding of which phrases, voicing and harmonic elements should sound more pronounced. This creates a unique balance, where soloist and chamber musician merge. Where each member of the ensemble must be a virtuoso pianist of the highest class, but to play together, must learn to act as a single body, breathe together and feel development in the same way – never being fearful of stepping back and giving way to important elements, melodies, basses and mellow tones, and at the same time not being afraid of spurring on and challenging one another in an almost competitive manner.
Aventure Piano Duo successfully started it’s competition journey in 2011 with the 3rd Prize at the 6th International Competition “Piano à 4 mains” in Valberg, France. In 2013, the Duo won three important prizes within one year – the 3rd Prize at the Rotary Piano 4 hands Competition in Gent, Belgium, 1st Prize and the Rachmaninoff Society Special Prize at the Bakhchiev Competition in Vologda, Russia, and 2nd Prize at the Second Rubinstein International Chamber Music Competition in Moscow. 2013 culminated with a residency at one of Europe’s most prestigious piano festivals – La Roque d’Anth é ron (France), where, among other things, the duo performed in front of a two-thousand person audience on the stage of Chateau de Florans, with a live broadcast on Radio France Musique. Lastly, it was in this same year, during the three Semifinals Recitals at the International Murray Dranoff Piano Duo Competition in Miami, USA (2013), that Aventure Duo were approached by LP Classics and the idea for this recording came to life.
The debut album became a new adventure for the musicians. Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances” and Brahms’s Sonata Op. 34bis represent two of the most challenging masterpieces ever written for two pianos.
Ada: On the one hand, a studio record can become a more definitive and “perfect” portrait of ones interpretation and ideas, allowing multiple takes and editing capabilities that are not present in a stage performance, where accidental deficiencies may creep in. On the other hand, a concert performance always offers a unique breath of life, which is very difficult to attain in a studio environment. Our main goal was to recreate the concert atmosphere, to keep the live inspiration and passion, and simultaneously lead ourselves down a paved road of artistic expression to its absolute.
Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances
It’s the summer of 1940 in the state of New York. World War II just started. Rachmaninoff, tormented by anxious thoughts and an irrepressible longing for his homeland and family, composes a new tri-form work in a fairly short amount of time. Initially, he intended to entitle the movements as “Noon”, “Twilight”, “Midnight”, but the final version disclaims any programmatic explanation, leaving the audience to unravel the mystery of the music.
Vitali: We did a great deal of research on the time in history and the creation of the Symphonic Dances. Carefully studying both the two-piano and orchestral scores, comparing them and looking for very specific orchestral timbres was a huge part of the process. There are many contrasting images, themes and remarkable leitmotifs throughout the piece, and the most important and meaningful among them is obviously the famous “Dies Irae” theme, beloved by the composer, especially in his later years. Here, the theme is particularly important in the third movement – a sort of tarantella with devilry, where spontaneous elements demonstrate the greatness of the supernatural forces, their mystic power of destruction and creation. In a sense, this work has some self-irony – the composer bitterly laughs at himself and his fate. After all, this was to be his last work.
Throughout the Dances the rhythmic language and phrasing are elaborate, complex and unpredictable, while the sound maintains a very vocal nature, and grows and decreases very organically. Ada and I often experiment with the development and the culmination of the melodic lines and within our duo, strangely, those moments come naturally, implicitly, without us having to discuss them necessarily. That is always the amazing joy of co-creation, and joint improvisation. The more we play, the more we want to experiment and try various changes.
Ada: My favorite movement of the Symphonic Dances is the second. Having listened to it a lot as a child, I always imagined a Russian winter – a blizzard with drifting snow over the land. The third movement seems to me somehow similar to the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky (especially the coda). The feeling here is somewhat primal; that of a pagan dance, savage energy coming from earth…
Performing the Symphonic Dances on American soil, where they were composed, they take on a different sound, in which you start to feel the deep nostalgia for the lost Russia. You feel the love for the country in every note, hidden in the inexorability of rhythm, a unique kind of bitterness. This happens despite the surrounding American environment, which seems to showcase a much more optimistic outlook and better quality of life, than that of the Russian reality…
Vitali: “Symphonic Dances” formed the basis for one of our upcoming art-synthesis projects in which we intend to combine recitation, film, dance, visual arts, computer animation, sculpture, in order to create a unique creative space involving elements of theater and mystery.
Brahms – Sonata in F Minor for Two Pianos
is an extraordinary work, with a somewhat unusual and tangled story of emergence. Originally, written by Brahms as a string quintet (with two cellos) it had little success and was subsequently transformed into a sonata for two pianos. From it’s first performance in 1864 in Vienna, the two-piano version was more highly appreciated by the audience. Following the advice of Clara Schumann, who found the two-piano work a bit overloaded, Brahms added several instruments and turned this into a quintet again, this time however, with piano. The piano quintet version became the most well-known and is often considered the original.
Ada: Our goal was to identify and showcase all the textural layers of this work as clearly as possible, and we studied the piano quintet version in conjunction with the two-piano score to help us. We worked to achieve the utmost legato and fluidity of the lines, which is quite difficult to accomplish within Brahms’s chord-saturated style. This sonata is very polyphonic, filled with melodic lines, supporting voices and motives that unify the structure and act as the connective tissue for the transitions and images throughout.
For me this sonata is one of the most romantic works by Brahms with a tragic, forceful and high-spirited first movement. There is an immense lyricism in the second, that expresses concealed suffering. An infernal Scherzo, and finally a dramatic, complex and controversial Finale.
Vitali: Brahms’s tempo requirements are complex and sometimes, seemingly unfeasible, especially in his slow movements. We tried to find a measured pace and expressiveness, with smoothness and warmth of tone, that feels born out of the long line of a vocalist’s breath.
~ Interviewed by Tatyana Lyubomirskaya
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