Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Pour les enfants pour piano de difficulté progressive [54:11]*
1er Recueil, très facile [11:16]; 2e Recueil, facile [12:13]; 3e Recueil, assez facile [12:47]; 4e Recueil, moyenne difficulté [17:55]
Piano miniatures (1945) [6:56]*
Elzbieta Tyszecka (piano)
rec. Kameralna Hall named after Henryk Czyza, Lódz Philarmonia, Lódz, Poland, July and October 2011. *World première recordings.
The four books of pieces for children by Tansman were written in 1933. The first volume was for the youngest children, the second for those starting school education - with suitably pedagogic titles - whilst the third is notably more advanced. The fourth book covers a wide range and moods and textures. These books of progressive difficulty were augmented by his work in other areas for young learners, such as writing for violin, for trio, guitar and piano four hands, amongst much else.
The first three books consist of twelve pieces whilst the last includes ten. Each sports an often picturesque and imaginative title, such as to fire interest in the child’s imagination. And each is written with great facility and perception. Tansman is on record as having deplored the paucity of such material, and in condemning what he saw as the vista between methodical exercises and genuine repertoire. Into what he targeted as that void, came these and other works for children.
Numerous felicities strike the ear in these fine performances. Whether it’s the noble chording of Chant ancient, the ingenious sonorities of Le petit ours en pelouche or the rhythmically vital and colouristic Valse des marionettes Tansman at all times offers little compressed evocations designed to charm and educate. But they aren’t quite as simple as all that, and he doesn’t start right at the beginning either. The child would have to be a nuanced one indeed to extract the full ratio of quiet melancholia encoded into Fin des vacances – though they could doubtless sympathise with the sentiment. The encouragement of baroque patterns comes via Les pompiers, and there’s Schumannesque influence strongly at work in the third of the second book, a Germano-Polish affair. Though the length of the pieces inevitably increases the more advanced the student becomes, these early ones are often less than a minute in length. They pack in a great deal of technical matters too.
Tansman pursues the ideas of marches and dances and tests leading voices in something like Le petit chat, the penultimate piece from the second book. As things develop in the third book, balanced chords and textures are pursued, and so too in the development of an occasional sense of a gloomy Slavic ethos, witnessed in Le mendicant. No question that Tansman knew Mittler’s once famous Music Box piece, because his own follows it drolly. By book four Tansman infuses contemporary music into the mix – just listen to the Gershwin and Blues licks in Disque as well as some demanding fast runs in the gamelan-infused Jeux Balinais with its exotic rhythms. Satie haunts the slow Berceuse. To complete the pleasure we have the Piano Miniatures of 1945 with their compact, proud marches, caprice and veiled impressionism.
Tansman’s task was accomplished with habitual generosity and imagination, qualities equally to be applied to Elzbieta Tyszecka in these well recorded and engaging miniatures. They are aimed at children, but adults can certainly enjoy listening to them.
Jonathan Woolf
Habitual generosity and imagination evident in these well recorded and engaging miniatures.