Déodat de SÉVERAC (1873-1921)
Cerdaña (1908-11) [32:54]
En Vacances: extracts (1912) [12:17]
Baigneuses au soleil [7:12]
Sous les lauriers roses (1919) [15:09]
Ma poupée chérie (1913) [3:09]
François-Michel Rignol (piano)
rec. June 2008, Chapelle de l’Ermitage de Font-Romeu
SOLSTICE SOCD 280 [70:48]
The musical poet of the Languedoc, Déodat de Séverac never entirely lacked for adherents on disc. From Casadesus and Solomon - unlikely seeming, but possessed of strong French training - to the composer’s friend and propagandist Blanche Selva, the 78 catalogues were not devoid of his piano music. We had to wait for larger scale tributes from such as Aldo Ciccolini on EMI and more recently still from Jordi Masó on Naxos, to experience a wider range of music, from the viewpoint of a single pianist. Such is also now the case with this disc from Solstice.
François-Michel Rignol has been recorded in the excellent acoustic of the Chapelle de l’Ermitage de Font-Romeu, of which a beautiful colour photograph is printed in the booklet. Sensibly his disc presents one of the composer’s masterpieces, the cycle Cerdaña. Despite Fauré and Debussy’s advocacy, Séverac never seemed to penetrate Parisian metropolitanism, and his early death, before the age of fifty, allied to his geographical remoteness in French Catalonia, further removed him from sight and hearing. Cerdaña will appeal to anyone who responds to Albéniz. Its picturesque scenes and terrain-crossing vistas are allied to a very personal sense of rhythm and of fêtes and fiesta. The mule-train crossing the mountains trudges wearily but supported by some Debussian harmonies, whilst when Séverac embeds a festive scene it’s invariably contrasted, as it doubtless should be, with other more reflective and personal material. Les Muletiers devant le Christ de Lliva is the fourth of the five scenes, and one that Blanche Selva recorded back in the 1920s. It’s intriguing to hear Séverac exploit Franck’s Prelude, Choral and Fugue in this work’s nobly rolled chords—as it was a work Selva much admired and indeed recorded. If anything, and slightly tauter too, Selva is even graver and more austere than Rignol.
The church acoustic there delivers a bit of an echo swaddling Baigneuses au soleil and because the recording, to compensate, I assume, is quite close-up we can hear the pedal action. Again Selva was more incisive and quicksilver, tempo-wise, but Rignol’s playing is fine in its own terms. He plays four of the set of En Vacances, charming old-school pieces and much lighter than Cerdaña with its Schumannesque lullaby being perceptively played in particular. The larger scale single movement Sous les lauriers roses was composed in 1919. It journeys from the carnivalesque to a more brittly coloured realm. It is all the while fused into Séverac’s own special brand of colour, landscape portraiture and rhythmic energy.
Given the above, and acknowledging competing performances, this disc would serve as a most enjoyable introduction to the Séverac’s music.
Jonathan Woolf
A most enjoyable introduction to the Séverac’s music.

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