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Marcelle Meyer (piano)
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Barcarolle Op.60 [7.34]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images Book I [4.45 + 6.26 + 3.06]
Images Book II [4.00 + 5.37 + 3.34]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Nights in the Gardens of Spain [22.32]
Marcelle Meyer (piano)
Orchestra of RAI, Rome/Mario Rossi
Recorded 1957-58
TAHRA 564 [57.53]


Meyer was one of the most fascinating of French pianists, a school of pianism hardly lacking in charisma or talent. She was versatile in the French baroque and wise in Debussy but never considered herself a specialist either in Rameau or in French Impressionism. Fortunately she recorded widely before her untimely death at the age of sixty-one in 1958. Her baroque and twentieth century repertoire are superbly captured in French EMI’s three volume Les Introuvables de Marcelle Meyer though there are also plenty of single disc offerings from various companies that cover rare commercial and live recordings - such as this one.

You will find her January 1957 commercial Debussy Images on EMI and that remains the first port of call for her in this work. But Tahra has unearthed a live RAI broadcast from April of the same year and the differences are minimal though the commercial recording clearly takes precedence in matters of recording quality. Nevertheless it is still an abundant pleasure to hear her marvellously evocative sweep in Reflets dans l’eau – the opposite of Michelangeli’s glacial precision – constantly enriched by her dextrous articulation. She is more obviously romanticised in Hommage à Rameau than another elite Debussyian, her contemporary the American George Copland who here prefers a more ascetic and limpid approach, very light on the pedal and spare. Both recorded this in 1957 and both have claims to be considered august first generation interpreters of Debussy – in fact rather greater than Gieseking, whose influence in matters Debussyan is a curious and in many ways anomalous one; a subject for another time perhaps. Her tone colours in Book II are worthy of note though once again when comparisons are made with the Debussy intimate Copeland we see wide divergences of approach in Et la lune descend with Copeland rattling through it in just over four minutes and Meyer taking five and a half. It sounds that much more modern and startling in the American’s hands, though both approaches offer their own rewards. Her Poissons d’or are glitteringly capricious. The Chopin is gracious, light and witty but again suffers from constricted sound.

The de Falla Nights was recorded in Rome the following year. The sound here is much more open and welcoming than in the rather unaertated studio of 1957. The balance is skewed decisively in favour of Meyer’s piano and this allows us plenty of opportunities to hear her splendidly engaged and colourful way with the work. The strings of the RAI orchestra are rather scrawny and the performance as a whole is rather untidy, though it is, to be sure, spirited and enthusiastic. Her tangy sonorities in the Danse lointaine are a real highlight – just right.  

There’s a thoughtful booklet note including an essay by her daughter with some unusual biographical and musicological perspectives. I understand Tahra will soon release another Meyer set – we should treasure all such.

Jonathan Woolf





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