Three doses of Tansman from companies that have done
much to promote his music. We'll start with Chandos (see Rob
three Chandos discs of his orchestral works).
The piano music has been cannily selected to take in a large
swathe of Tansman’s compositional life. The earliest pieces
include juvenile works - some written when he was seventeen -
whilst the Album d’amis
was written in 1980, six
years before Tansman’s death. The early work is Recueil
. The composer gave the premiere of the set, and
also recorded it, in 1929. He takes in an amusing Oberek, and
an artful, Chopin-infiltrated movement - which also wears the
harmonic banner of then contemporary popular song . The second
Oberek is vital and bass hewn. There’s a movement dedicated
to the pianist Jan Smeterlin and this has some chromaticism as
well as spicier harmonies - the pianist was a well known exponent
of Szymanowski. We are back on folkloric territory for the sixth
movement with its drone bass. Tansman also delves into so-called folk
with aplomb, but has the confidence to end
with a still and reflective Lento
The Sonata rustica
was written in 1925. It opens in heartening
sonata-allegro form, spiced by plenty of contrastive material,
including a little March section. The slow movement is an involving
and quietly moving Cantilena, which certainly owes something
to Ravel, before a festive dance ushers in the finale - the bell
peals are exultant. The Third Sonata followed eight years later.
The influences for this are alleged to be strongly Bali-esque
but I hear a great deal of Parisian night life. There’s
a finely voiced Hymnal central movement. Of the Trois Préludes en
forme de Blues
there’s plenty of chanson saturation,
with a bluesy, drenched, slow movement replete with Gershwin,
albeit a bit too cocktail-orientated for my own tastes. The brief Quatre
was written for Stravinsky’s 70th
Tansman draws on Ravel here, maybe late Fauré as well.
Finally the late Album d’amis
consists of nine brief
movements. Dance patterns are the obvious influence; there’s
even a Kujawiak. Some of the movements are suitably animated,
whilst others - such as the last, dedicated to his publisher
- are slow and reflective.
Dux’s first album surveys his works for cello and piano.
The Two Pieces date from 1931 and are dedicated to Casals. The
first is warmly lyrical whilst the second is brief and vivacious
though it’s not terribly distinctive. Tansman certainly
had a canny knack in his dedications. The Second Sonata was dedicated
to that prince of French cellists, Maurice Maréchal, in
1930. It’s a compact three movement work with a strenuously
effective sonata form first movement. The central panel has a
rather forlorn element suffused as it is with refined lyricism.
The most personalised music however comes in the finale - sprightly,
animated, with a Puckish and rollicking quality.
The Fantasie was a dedication to Piatigorsky. It’s a bipartite
affair. The latter part, being faster, is perhaps the more interesting.
Tansman indulges his love of Gershwin here - as he often does
in his music - but otherwise there’s rather a superficial
quality to the writing. Cassadó was the recipient of the
Partita, written in 1955. It’s by some way the most powerful
work on the disc, and represents Tansman at his intellectually
most formidable. It wears a Baroque carapace but also takes in
assertive virtuosic writing and opportunities for melancholic
infusions. There’s a busy scherzo section and a cadenza
too, with fire reserved for the finale, which is culminatory
in the right way, and includes a non-academic sounding Fugue.
The Quatre pièces faciles
are brief and
baroque-tinged once more - and they act as brief charmers after
the strong, probing control of the outstanding Partita.
The second Dux is dominated by works for the violin and orchestra.
The Cinq pièces
date from 1930. The first is a
light-hearted neo-classical affair, very deftly orchestrated.
Sweetness suffuses the second, and there’s a touch of the
Flight of the Bumble Bee about the third. The fourth is a plangent
dialogue between the violin and the winds; it’s a beautiful
aria, one of Tansman’s finest.
Rather like the slightly older Martinů, Tansman was given
to infiltrating piano textures into his orchestral and concertante
works. The 1937 Violin Concerto is not especially neo-classical
however. There are elements of impressionism - a filtered Debussy-Delius
inheritance, from time to time. The mysterious opening to the Lento
a cadenza but the heart of the lyricism resides in the Adagio
which is gauzy but not quite memorable. The extensive
cadenza here has Hungarian elements, and the writing is later,
triumphantly, laced by percussion colour. The Suite Baroque
chamber orchestra followed over twenty years later, in 1958.
It’s a bright and genial piece of writing - not at all
like Tippett in his baroque-absorbent work. Tansman is altogether
more spruce and even-handed, and far less memorable.
All the performances prove worthy ambassadors for Tansman’s
music. So too the recordings, which are strongly sympathetic.
Some sifting is necessary here. The Violin Concerto is a rare
bird, but not classic Tansman. The Partita for cello is probing
and powerful. The piano disc has the widest variety and in many
ways the best music.