24 Intermezzi; Petite Suite
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Polish by birth, Alexandre Tansman settled in France in 1919 where he soon joined the ranks of the most prominent French and other European composers and musicians of the time. After many years of undeserved neglect, his vast catalogue of music is being r
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The 24 Intermezzi were written in 1939/40 in his last years in France. They are brief entries in a compositional diary. Although they don't have subtitles, they convey moods, events and opinions of the composer. Taken as a group they are fresh, appealing and strikingly original while fairly easy for the listener to grasp. One hears facile counterpoint (No. 11), ostinati (as in the four-note bass line in the march-like No. 12), an atonal toccata à la George Perle [but years before Perle!], highly original harmonies (No. 13), homage to earlier composers (Fauré in No. 7, Bach in No. 11, Chopin in No. 16, Brahms in No. 23), all wrapped in Tansman's easily recognizable style. This collection of Intermezzi is not well-known; indeed, this is first recording of them I've ever run into. But they are worthy of a place in the solo piano recital repertoire. They have been a real discovery for me.
The disc is rounded out by the early 'Petite Suite' (1917-1919), written when Tansman was still in Poland and the brief Valse-Impromptu (1940) which lasts all of 1:46. The Petite Suite, written when Tansman was 20 or so, sounds like him but clearly owes a good deal to Scriabin and Chopin. The Valse-Impromptu was written for a ballet dancer, one Lycette Darsonval, and is a rather more-chromatic-than-Ravel dance
The pianist here, Eliane Reyes, is a young Frenchwoman who has been rightly praised by such luminaries as Martha Argerich and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Her playing on this disc is supple, delicately perfumed, nuanced, musicianly. I will be playing this disc a lot over the years I suspect.
The 24 intermezzi is a different matter, but a warning is in order: Tansman wrote these pieces in four sets containing six pieces each, and I do not recommend trying to listen to all 24 in one sitting. They contain a wealth of details, colors and variety, which is hard to appreciate if one takes too many in one go. The general character of the Intermezzi is light and playful, and stylistically they will perhaps remind one of Szymanowski's late piano works. The apparent lightness should not be taken to indicate that the music lacks profundity any more than the Chopin mazurkas do, and while I would be reluctant to make too big claims for any of them, I am certainly glad to have heard them.
They are also marvelously played by Eliane Reyes - indeed, I can hardly imagine a more compelling advocacy; she has clearly given each individual piece some thought, and the results are appropriately variegated and compelling. I suppose Naxos could have put some more effort into the engineering, however; the piano is somewhat hard and artificial-sounding, although it is, overall, not a huge problem. Recommended.