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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Camille PLEYEL (1788-1855)
Le Matelot - Caprice on a Favourite Romance in G, op.38 (1824) [8:29]
Un Troubadour Béarnais, with Variations, Introduction and Finale in G minor, op.1 (1816) [10:15]
Nocturne à la Field in B flat, op.52 (1828) [4:23]
Potpourri no.2 in G of Arias from Rossini's Operas [9:50]
Introduction and Rondeau in C minor, op.2 (1817) [6:33]
Mélange on Motifs from "Maçon" (Auber), in E flat, op.46 (1825) [7:47]
Theme on Polish Airs with New Variations in A minor, op.3 (1817) [12:14]
Masha Dimitrieva (piano)
rec. Pleyel Museum, Rupperthal, Austria, 25 June, 1 October 2010. DDD
GRAMOLA 98884 [59:30]

Experience Classicsonline

Camille Pleyel was the "brilliant son of a brilliant father", the father in question being Ignaz Pleyel, Austrian composer, music publisher and piano-maker extraordinaire. Camille, born in Paris and more French than Austrian, followed much the same path as Ignaz, eventually joining his father in business in 1815 and giving up composing - though not concert-giving. Very little of Camille's music has been recorded. Bart van Oort included the Nocturne à la Field in his 4 CD Art of the Nocturne in the Nineteenth Century recording for Brilliant Classics a few years ago (review), but beyond that there is little or nothing available.

Besides being a welcome introduction to Pleyel's talents, this is also the eighth solo CD of Crimean pianist Masha Dimitrieva. Her most important discs to date have been her recording of American composer Gordon Sherwood's Piano Concerto for CPO (777 012-2), and two CDs of music by Ignaz Pleyel: two Concertos arranged for piano by the composer himself in premiere recordings for Ars Production (ARS 38813), and solo piano works for Gramola (98816), performed using one of Ignaz's original instruments.

Similarly, on this latest recording Dimitrieva plays Ignaz Pleyel's six-and-a-quarter octave op. 1614, built in 1831 and now preserved in the Pleyel Museum in Austria. Unlike his father's music, Camille Pleyel's is not always the subtlest, but then he was not writing for particularly subtle audiences. He was primarily a businessman and a virtuoso and obviously wrote his music with the preferences of the general public in mind. Thus most of his music consisted of piano and chamber works often farrago-like in content and style. Nevertheless, these are not fripperies for bored housewives, but elegant, witty, varied, often virtuosic pieces that demonstrate a painstaking, intelligent pianism as well as a shrewd business sense. From barnstormers like Le Matelot to the lyrical Nocturne à la Field, Pleyel's music, played in true 19th century virtuoso style by Dimitrieva, is guaranteed to get feet tapping and smiles breaking in all but the most hard-hearted of listener.

The trilingual CD booklet is glossy, informative and well written, if translated occasionally with a peculiar turn of phrase. The track listing does repeat the New Grove Dictionary's statement that Pleyel's final work was his opus 51, yet the Nocturne à la Field is labelled, rightly or wrongly, as op.52. For those still wavering about Pleyel, the CD booklet can be downloaded free from the Pleyel Museum's website here.

As well as sporting a cover photo of Dimitrieva looking like a 1950s film star, the booklet also has full-page prints of Camille Pleyel and Marie Moke, pianist and piano teacher who infamously went from being Berlioz's fiancée to Pleyel's wife and the "Mme Pleyel" to whom Chopin dedicated his op.9 his Nocturnes. As her first given name was, coincidentally, also Camille, it would have been amusing, and perhaps revealing, for Gramola to have recorded some of her music - she was also an occasional composer - for this recital, which at just under an hour is rather short. She was, by all accounts, an even better pianist than her ex-husband - indeed she went on to play four hand music with Liszt, who became a personal friend.


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