The disc is nearly German composer Luise Le Beau's complete
works for piano: three pieces did not fit on this very generously
stuffed release but can be downloaded for free from Genuin's
website. The three downloads come as MP3s encoded at an impressive-sounding
256kbps, and can be accessed using a username and password included
in the CD booklet. The downloads are not discussed in the liner-notes,
but then neither, unfortunately, are any of the other works
- instead, the listener must make do with a short, rather starchy
essay entitled "Is composing a male domain?", by one
Professor Helmut Reuter of Bremen University, followed by a
paean to Croatian pianist Ana-Marija Markovina.
Markovina's name also features far more prominently on the front
cover, so perhaps this CD is really primarily a showcase for
her musicianship. She certainly plays all the notes in the right
order, but Le Beau's piano works stop well short of the level
of profundity the best pianists thrive on. Not that Le Beau's
music is unappealing. The early works are very reminiscent of
Chopin - the Three Pieces op.1 or the 8 Preludes op.12,
for example - and Robert Schumann: the Piano Sonata in A
minor op.8; even Clara Schumann - Original-Thema mit
Variationen, op.3. But the point is that Le Beau was still
only a small child when Robert Schumann died, and had not even
been born when Chopin died. In other words, her music is conservative
- and wears that fact proudly on its sleeve.
Consequently there is nothing new in it all, though she clearly
had a passion for forte and fortissimo markings,
which crop up with far more frequency than softer passages.
The longest work is the Piano Sonata, which is still
less than 15 minutes; the rest is generally of salon piece length,
though it may be a little harsh to label it as such. The works
are conveniently arranged on the disc in order of opus number,
from which it will soon become evident to the listener that
Le Beau's music did not change very much over time - the later
works still sound like Chopin and the Schumanns!
The sound quality on this recording is generally pretty good,
although the tone of the piano, a Steinway D, does sound, rather
surprisingly, slightly harsh in places. The glossy booklet is
attractive in some ways, trying in others, one of which - the
complete lack of information about the pieces, and next to nothing
about Le Beau - has already been mentioned. There are also six
separate photos of Markovina - surely overkill, even if she
does have long dark wavy hair? The track listing is also disappointing:
individual movements are listed either in mid grey on light
grey or mid grey on black, unnecessarily reducing legibility
to an eye-straining degree.
Two minor points relating to the New Grove Dictionary:
regarding the 'complete' piano music label, New Grove
also lists a set of 6 Fugues (Studies) op.21, published
undated in Leipzig - why was that omitted? And NG gives Abendklänge
as Le Beau's op.63, not 64 as stated on the disc, which is a
Sanctus for women's chorus.
It may not be fair to judge Le Beau solely by her piano music.
She also wrote much vocal and choral music, as well as chamber
music, orchestral works and two operas, which it would be nice
to be able to hear. But her piano music is pleasant enough,
in an undemanding sort of way, as this CD testifies.
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