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Gustave SAMAZEUILH (1877-1967)
Le Chant de la Mer (1918-19) [21:10]
Suite en Sol (1902 rev. 1911) [16:56]
Trois Petites Inventions (1903) [6:24]
Naiades au Soir (1910) [7:21]
Esquisses (1944-45) [10:41]
Evocation (1947) [3:37]
Stéphane Lemelin (piano)
rec. 24-26 June 1999, Convocation Hall, University of Alberta. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

ATMA and Stéphane Lemelin have established a reputation for exploring composers relegated to the periphery of French music. This disc cuts a piano solo cross-section through the composer's far from plenteous output.

Born into an artistic and affluent family in Bordeaux Samazeuilh had entrée to the music-cultural elite of his day. Around the turn of the century he studied with Chausson, d'Indy and Dukas at the Schola Cantorum. His catalogue of works is sparing but includes a Fantaisie Elegiaque beloved of Thibaud and Cortot, a string trio and string quintet alongside some orchestral pieces and songs. He wrote about music and translated into French the libretti of Tristan and Isolde and Strauss's Capriccio.

Le Chant de la Mer is his most extensive work for solo piano. It is a triptych with a slow surging Prelude suggestive of the ponderous majesty of the oceans. Rooted in their peerless depths, we hear an impressionistic and rich Claire de lune au large which evokes the far horizons of Koechlin's Les Heures Persanes. The last movement Tempête et lever du jour sur les flots is replete with threat and anger but finally rises above negation to a stunningly defiant climax irradiated by sunlight and triumph. A magnificent piece of music which should be much more widely known and played. There are separate dedications for each movement: to Francis Planté, Marguérite Long and Alfred Cortot.

The six movement Suite was written when he was 25. Each episode takes a classical title but there is no parody, no tawdry. One might compare this suite with Warlock's Capriol of a decade or so later. The Three little Inventions are tributes to Bach but with a lightly romanticised haze at the edges. 

Naiades au Soir steps back from ancient composition models to produce in masterly fashion an impressionistic essay which is fragile yet resilient. It ends in a warming haze of cushioned bass resonance. It's a rich piece which drew an orchestral version from the composer. 

The last two works on this disc date from three decades later just after the Second World War. The Dédicace of Esquisses inhabits a similar world to the Prelude of Chant de la Mer. Luciole is a pell-mell Flight of the bumble bee which melts away quickly into an abrupt silence. Serenade is for left-hand only and the final and very lucid  Souvenir for the right hand alone is clearly Spanish-inflected. It would go well in recital with Rapsodie espagnole. The piece ends with a fine Iberian stutter. The four pieces in Esquisses are respectively dedicated to the French pianists Tatiana de Sanzéwitch, Jeanne-Marie Darré, Jean Doyen and Marcel Ciampi. 

The gentle Evocation is dedicated to Georges Enesco who had retired to Paris and to seeming anonymity.

Lemelin negotiates all this allusive and often subtle music with fluency and fibre - qualities also evident in his programme notes. More please: collections of piano music by Bonnal, Witkowski and d'Ollonne would be very acceptable.

Rob Barnett



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