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Vincent D’Indy (1851-1931)
Sonata in E major Op. 63 (1906) [41:33]
Poème des Montagnes (1881) [23:21]
Diane Andersen (piano)
rec. Sound Recording Center, Ghent (no date). DDD
Text by Fernand LeClerq
CLASSIC TALENT DOM 2911 128 [64:51]

Experience Classicsonline


D’Indy wrote piano - and organ - music throughout his life and it constitutes a substantial fraction of his output. On this disc we have two works which chart the progress of his approach to the instrument. The first, Poème des Montagnes, shows the young composer as he seeks to consolidate the lessons of his early efforts and to expand the range of his pianistic writing. The Sonata is the work of the established and fully developed composer, seeking to express his own well-developed musical philosophy.

The Poème des Montagnes is the first substantial piano work of the composer’s maturity. It shows him using the cyclical procedures learnt from his master Franck to bind together five pieces portraying different sections of his own area of south-eastern France. But there is another programmatic element: the theme that provides the material for all five sections is one that the composer associated with his wife Isabelle and which he titled “la Bien-aimée” (the Well-beloved). This is the same theme that the composer used as the basis for his Souvenirs Op. 62 written in 1906 as a memorial to her. The introduction, Harmonie, not only presents the basic material, but demonstrates a charm and tenderness one does not always associate with this composer and which is frequently found throughout the piece. Chant des Bruyères is also charming, with a simple but elegant development of the main theme and an orchestral use of the piano. The middle section shows a clever manipulation of the basic material through a series of dances with a slow central interlude. The final section is perhaps the highlight of the entire work.  Unfortunately, Plein air begins in a somewhat disappointing fashion, but the middle section is more impressive and leads to a touching coda, which connects to the second Harmonie, with its elaboration of the original motif finally dying away to the original mood of the work.

Interestingly, the Sonata was written directly after the above-mentioned Souvenirs, but, while serious, is not tragic. The basic material is a very Franckian theme, which is varied in many ways, some quite inventive, in the first Modéré movement,. D’Indy is especially clever when he extends the variants of his material and this leads to many beautiful passages as well as a few turbulent ones. Towards the end of the movement his love of Bach makes itself felt in some of the most impressive thematic manipulation. The second movement sounds a little like Debussy rhythmically as the jaunty theme goes through a wide variety of tempi, also developing thematically as it repeatedly slows down and speeds up. The third movement is a Modéré like the first and is a complicated cyclic summation of what has gone before both thematically and rhythmically. It also shows more charm than the previous movements, as well as having meditative episodes. Again the extensions of already existing material are masterly. Most impressive is the bell-like passage towards the end which dies away, over the hills of the Ardèche as it were, before there is a final development of the opening material. In both its construction and development this work can compete with that other giant French sonata, of Dukas, and is perhaps more immediately appealing.

At present there is no other recording available of the Sonata and only one of the Poème des Montagnes - by Michael Schäfer on Genuin Musikproduktion. This is not a problem, however, as Diane Andersen delivers luminous, crystal-clear playing of both pieces. Her phrasing and especially touch are so well suited to this music that it is hard to imagine even the composer having any criticism to make. The recording is very lifelike and a good counterpart to the playing. My major reservation is with the text. First, the Poème is listed both as Op. 15 and Op. 150 and the third movement of the sonata is timed at 8:09 when in reality it is ten minutes longer. Secondly, the actual text is extremely eccentric in its description of the two works, which at first I thought was a translation problem. But the eccentricity is there in both French and English. However, it’s the music that counts and because of this the disc rates very highly indeed.

William Kreindler


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