'Let’s Dance!', the strap-line for Kathryn Stott's recital, could scarcely have been a more unequivocal statement of intent, as earthy folk-dances rubbed shoulders with society elegance – St John's Church, Buxton, UK, 9 July 2021.
Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances, based on fiddle tunes he met during his folk-music collecting expeditions, were played with rather more rubato than I was expecting, but the strutting rhythms of No 1 were sharply articulated, the flute-like right-hand melody of No 3 was delivered with crystal-clear tone, and there was fierce exuberance in the concluding two fast dances.
La Plus que Lente was Debussy's nod to a vogue for slow waltzes. He called it 'slower than slow', and Stott took him at his word, with engagingly smoochy results.
Among other American composers of his generation, Barber was the most indebted to the European romantic tradition. But he deliberately set out to show he could be as down home as the rest of them in the four pieces that make up his Excursions. Stott gave the opening boogie-woogie real punch, and homed in on the scrunchy guitar effects in the blues second movement. Textures were nicely varied in No 3, with the cowboy song 'The Streets of Laredo' hovering in the background, and the barn-dance that is No 4 was dispatched with propulsive energy, leading to a deft throw-away ending.
A gently wistful account of Chopin's A flat Waltz, Op 69 No 1, was the ideal stepping-stone into Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales. His love of waltz-rhythms was honoured through the work's remarkable variety of moods and textures. Introspective pieces like Nos 2 and 5 offset the powerful opening number and the teasing sixth. In the haunting epilogue, Stott paid due attention to inner detail as Ravel summoned up the ghosts of the previous waltzes.
Ginastera's Argentinian Dances rang down the curtain in flamboyant style, with incisive rhythms for the old cowherd in No 1 – 'whatever he's on, I want some', said Stott in her introduction – a nicely enigmatic view of the graceful girl's dance, another waltz, and a flamboyant account of the cunning gaucho's concluding toccata.
Copyright © 17 July 2021