Ray Chen’s Sony Classical debut, Virtuoso, captures the unmistakable spark of brilliance in the 22-year-old’s command of showpieces. This Melba release, meanwhile, presents the artist in a more subtle test of interpretive prowess. Of the “diversions” gathered here – Stravinsky’s most charming chamber vignettes – all but the Duo concertante are arrangements from his stage works, including Petrushka and Pulcinella.
Chen adopts a stately air for the introduction to Suite after Pergolesi, energising the Tarantella without sacrificing the balletic lightness of neo-classical Stravinsky. Timothy Young’s accompaniment is sensitively varied right from the delicate opening Divertimento, guiding the mercurial violin through repeated figurations of mounting intensity towards a punchy climax.
It may seem an unfair comparison for a rising star, but my preference in this repertoire lies with Anthony Marwood and Thomas Adès. It is the older violinist who delivers more youthful bounce and bite, with Adès’s playing full of thrills. But Chen emerges triumphant in pathos: the lyrical poise of the Serenata, and the darkly expressive, idiomatic portamenti in Chanson russe.