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Husum 2022 DACOCD949

Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2022
rec. 2022, Husum, Germany

Danacord and Jesper Buhl’s Husum series “has legs”, as they say. It has been going full steam since the dawn of the compact disc … well almost; 1987 in fact. The series held in the North German coastal town resonates with rarities of piano music. You can trace many of the resulting CDs, taken down live at the festival, through reviews on this site. This one, the latest, reflects the best from the extra festival held there over 3-5 June 2022. Covid-19 put paid to the intended 2020 festival and this one was in some measure to compensate for that. The pieces chosen had Alkan as the centre of gravity; not that Charles-Valentin Alkan’s music has exclusive sway.

The four Alkan miniatures - OK the impressive Aime-Moi from 1837 runs to 11:03 - launch the CD. Aime-Moi is deftly played by Marc-André Hamelin with an ear and application to the score’s sostenuto weightiness as well as to its sweetness. It is a most ambitious piece, with its foundation of Lisztian left-hand profundo passages and emotive stormy eddies. It stands proud in the company of the shorter, and lighter, three Chants from the composer’s later years and makes a resonant counter-balance.

The admirable Bill Eidi tackles Hahn and de Sévérac. He is familiar with the former having recorded the complete Le rossignol éperdu for much-lamented Timpani. The thoughtful passing cumulo nimbus of ‘Hivernale’ are rendered with great powers of concentration and expression. De Sévérac’s ‘Les muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia’ from his cyele Cerdaña (also recorded by Eidi) have a beetling, towering aspect. Marie-Catherine Girod (who has done so much for Dupont, de Sévérac, Bowen and Bax) returns with Mel Bonis’s luxurious Ophélie which makes free with high trills and a plangent foundation. I confess that I have never heard of Jeanne Barbillion (1895-1992); my loss. Her 1926 ‘Bord de la mer, le soir’ (Provence I) is a five-minute work of shifting layers and is far from simple, though it resolves into something close to salon half way though.

Many miles away from Barbillion in terms of idiom and the passage of years is the Hoffmann Sonata - Beethovenian ‘pocket’-portentous in its way across just short of nine minutes and one movement. It has fugal adjuncts of which Kotaro Fukuma makes a smooth flowing component. Fanny Hensel (1805-1847) (the sister of Felix Mendelssohn) is a flighty disciple to the tempest; a very similar vibe to that of her brother … or is it the other way around? She died in the same year as Felix. Then we come to William Alwyn’s very short, very early and heatedly impressionistic dream of a world fallen drowsy: Haze of Noon. William Grant Still’s ‘Fairy Knoll’ must have been written to keep the wolf at bay. It is a movement from his suite Bells and its high chimes become increasingly occluded so that it avoids most of the case for it being merely pretty. Still wrote five symphonies among much else, including a rather moving ‘relic’ of the Second World War: In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy (1943). We stay in the USA for William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost Rag which would go well (in fact it is a cut above - with a title of the same calibre) with the rags of Scott Joplin. Hamelin makes charming and extended play with its melancholy syncopation. We end what has been a brimful disc with the Portuguese composer dos Santos’s ‘Le rêve’ from Trois Romances and fellow Iberian Torres’ Un sueño en Granada as played by Artur Pizarro. ‘Le rêve’ is a pulse-slowing soporific dream (what else?) and the Torres adds a trill and a slow motion proud flourish to the classic literature of Spain. Barcelona-born Torres went to Paris and after the Spanish Civil War settled in the USA and finally in Chile.

The booklet notes are by Peter Grove who was Secretary of the Alkan Society (est. 1977) from 1990 to 2000. The notes delve just as deeply for the other composers as they do for Alkan.

As for the pianists, they include familiar names but ones either often not so much heard these days or unheard altogether: Marie Catherine Girod, Clare Hammond, Artur Pizarro, Billy Eidi, Kotaro Fukuma and Marc-André Hamelin.

Danacord reminds potential listeners that all the “previous years (discs) from 1987 (onwards) are still in stock and are not to be missed” As it is, the present example resounds with music unfamiliar yet striving for our attention and emotional engagement.

Rob Barnett

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
1. Chant in E major, Op 38(I) No 1
Marie-Catherine Girod (piano)
2. Chant in A minor, Op 70 No 2
Clare Hammond (piano)
3. Chant in F-sharp minor, Op 67 No 5
Artur Pizarro (piano)
4. Aime-moi, Op 15 No 1
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
5. Hivernale (Le rossignol éperdu, No 52)
Déodat de Sévérac (1872-1921)
6. Les muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia (Cerdaña, No 4)
Billy Eidi (piano)
Mel Bonis (1858-1937)
7. Ophélie
Jeanne Barbillion (1895-1992)
8. Bord de la mer, le soir (Provence I)
Marie-Catherine Girod (piano)
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822)
9. Sonata No 2 in F minor, AV27
Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
10. Introduction and Capriccio in B minor
Kotaro Fukuma (piano)
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
11. Haze of Noon
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
12. Fairy Knoll (from Bells)
Clare Hammond (piano)
William Bolcom (b. 1938)
13. Graceful Ghost Rag
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Alfredo Napoleão dos Santos (1852-1917)
14. Le rêve (from Trois Romances Op 45)
Federico Longás Torres (1893-1968)
15. Un sueño en Granada
Artur Pizarro (piano)

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