Alexandre TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Concertino for piano and orchestra (1931) [15:26]
Stele, in memoriam Igor Stravinsky (1972) [13:58]
Pièce Concertante, for piano left hand and orchestra (1941) [15:44]
Élégie, to the memory of Darius Milhaud (1975) [10:25]
Christian Seibert (piano)
Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt/Howard Griffiths
rec. January 2009, CPE Bach Concert Hall, Frankfurt-Oder
CPO 777 449-2 [53:22]
It’s often the case that one reads something along the lines of; ‘times have never been better on disc for the admirer of...’ with the name of a once obscure, or possibly still obscure composer to follow. I should know: I’ve written things like that often enough. Yet, faced with the flood of Tansman releases in the last few years, and I’ve also done my fair share of reviews, what else can one say? Thanks, certainly, to the various record companies involved which provide opportunities to explore more deeply his vivid work list.
The pieces here span forty years. The Concertino was written in 1931 for José Iturbi. Right from the off this bangs along nicely, the piano’s striking toccata-like dynamism proving consistently exciting. Fortunately there are some droll syncopations to keep mere mechanism at bay, and his love of Gershwin - whom he knew well - is certainly audible. So if you like Parisian modernism crossed with early Martinů, this will suit you fine. The Chopinesque delicacy in the central movement is flavoured with more Gershwin moods, before the giocoso high jinks of the finale are unleashed: Rhapsody in Blue meets La Revue de cuisine.
Tansman collectors will find that this first ever recording of the Pièce Concertante, for piano left hand and orchestra (1941) is, in fact, also its first ever performance. It was left as a piano score, written for Paul Wittgenstein, and Piotr Moss - whose music I have reviewed and admired - has orchestrated it. It’s a fascinating mélange of influences, primarily Ravel - with whom Tansman studied - and Gershwin once more. It’s a demanding piece for the pianist, but there are evocative moments in the slow movement and high spirits in the finale which seems infatuated with Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
By contrast Stele, in memoriam Igor Stravinsky which was written in 1972 presents a serious elegy with some Stravinskian quotations embedded, and plenty of terse driving writing too. The conjunction of rhythmic vitality and rapt stillness is compelling. Then there is another memorial piece, Élégie, to the memory of Darius Milhaud which also, albeit briefly, quotes from Milhaud (La Création du Monde). It’s necessarily melancholy but there are some fine baroque-styled brass interjections in the finale to keep things acutely interesting for the listener.
The lighter and heavier side of Tansman are presented here; two biggish concertante piano works and two memorial pieces. Fine performances and recordings ensure considerable pleasure.
Fine performances and recordings ensure considerable pleasure.