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Jacques LEDUC (b.1932)
Fantaisie sur un thème de Mozart Op.73 (1990)
Hommage à Debussy Op.46 (1975)
Exercices en forme de sonates Op.69 (1985)
Quelques danses anciennes Op.36 (1971)
Quatre miniatures Op.67 (1981)
Six pièces faciles Op.53 (1975)
Impressions Op.51 (1975)a
Scherzino Op.72 (1986)
Contrastes Op.24 (1967)
Fileuse Op.55 (1975)
Trois impromptus Op.16 (1964)b
Apostrophes Op.35 (1971)
Prélude, variations et fugato Op.19 (1965)
Quatre pièces brèves Op.18 (1965)
Pochades Op.58 (1977)
Olivier De Spiegeleir (piano); Francette Bartholomée (harp)b; Duo Dürrüoglu-Demiriz/Martens (pianos)a
Recorded: Studio The Right Place, Brussels, September 2002 and Studio 1 Flagey, Brussels, October 2002 (Trois impromptus)
CYPRES CYP 4618 [57:30 + 61:40]

For all his academic appointments (he taught at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels and still is Rector of the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elizabeth and Chairman of the SABAM, the Belgian Copyright Society), Jacques Leduc nevertheless managed to compose a sizeable output in which piano and chamber music are prominent. He, however, also composed, among other, a substantial Symphony Op.29 (available on CYPRES CYP 7601), a Oboe Concertino Op.10 (available on PHAEDRA 92029 recently reviewed here) and a Piano Concerto Op.31 (available many years ago on an old LP EMI 1A063-23990 nla) commissioned for the Finals of the 1972 Queen Elizabeth Competition (a new recording of this magnificent work is long overdue). I already briefly commented on Leducís music when reviewing recent recordings of his Flute Sonata Op.21 (on CYPRES CYP 4615) and of his Oboe Concertino Op.10 (on PHAEDRA 92029). His varied output for piano, ranging from short didactic pieces such as Six pièces faciles Op.53, Scherzino Op.72, Fileuse Op.55 and Contrastes Op.24 to more complex works such as the Fantaisie sur un thème de Mozart Op.73, Apostrophes Op.35 and Prélude, variations et fugato Op.19, is characterised by the very same qualities that we have come to regard as Leduc hallmarks : clarity, subtle harmony, refined elegance and formal mastery. Leducís models are Debussy, Ravel, Roussel, Stravinsky and Bartók as well as Mozart and Scarlatti. Two of Leducís piano pieces pay overt homage to the latter.

In spite of its somewhat diminutive title, Fantaisie sur un thème de Mozart Op.73, written in 1990 at the request of the Belgian pianist Jacques Genty who wanted a piece he could play along with Mozartís own C Minor Sonata KV 457, is a substantial work based on Mozartís basic cell for his KV 457, varied and developed in a remarkably resourceful manner. On the other hand, Hommage à Debussy Op.46 is a suite of five short character sketches , all evoking the French masterís music without ever attempting at slavish imitation. Similarly, Quelques danses anciennes Op.36 may be considered as Leducís homage to Ravel and his Tombeau de Couperin. Exercices en forme de sonate pour célébrer Scarlatti Op.69, another piece composed at the request of Jacques Genty, are also clearly inspired by their model, though again in Leducís personal way.

 

Quatre miniatures Op.67, though overtly didactic in intent, are as beautifully crafted as any other work by Leduc. In this as well as in Six pièces faciles Op.53, Quatre pièces brèves Op.18 and Pochades Op.58, Leduc also lets some slightly ironic humour slip into his music, e.g. in the last of Quatre miniatures (Escapade), the Scherzetto of Six pièces faciles, the final Ritmico of Quatre pièces brèves or the whole of Pochades. Humour, however, may also sometimes surface in more serious works such as the magnificent Prélude, variations et fugato Op.19, his longest and most substantial piano work so far. For all the serious intent of the work, the variation section includes a Tempo di valza, a Marcia burlesca and ends with another light-footed Scherzino leading into the brilliant final Fugato. Apostrophes Op.35 is a somewhat different proposition. The music is much tenser with much angular writing and harsh rhythms, rather redolent of Bartók and Stravinsky, and harmonically more stringent. A short, concise, eventful piece, full of energy and tension, though never recklessly so.

 

Scherzino Op.72, Contrastes Op.24 and Fileuse Op.55 were all written as test pieces for various competitions, though they are in no way written down. All three challenge the playersí abilities, but Ė again Ė never extravagantly so. Simpler, fairly straightforward miniatures of great charm, ultimately very rewarding. Fileuse Op.55, true to its title, is a beautiful study in fluid piano playing whereas both other pieces are more varied and contrasted, thus somewhat more demanding on the players.

This generous release also includes Leducís only works for two pianos and for diatonic harp. Trois impromptus Op.16 for diatonic harp were actually written before any of the piano works. This superbly crafted piece is beautifully written for the instrument. The central movement Poetico is particularly beautiful. Impressions Op.51 for two pianos is another magnificent triptych much in the same vein as Apostrophes. The music, again, rather harks back to Bartok and Stravinsky than to Leducís French models. I wish he could write more for this medium.

Several years ago, Olivier De Spiegeleir recorded some of these pieces in a disc of Leducís piano music which he shared with Jacques Genty (DUCHESNE CD 71662). He obviously has a great love and a deep understanding of the music which he responds to with immaculate and sensitive playing. The Duo Dürrüoglu Demiriz-Martens do a fine job of Impressions as does Francette Bartholomée of Trois impromptus. This generous programme is superbly recorded and produced throughout.

If you respond to the music of the composers mentioned in this review or if you are a fan of Leduc, you will need no further recommendation. Others, I may assure you, will find much to enjoy. Anyway, this release is most welcome, the more so that such a tribute to Jacques Leducís impeccable craftsmanship was long overdue.

Hubert Culot



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