Déodat de SÉVÉRAC (1872-1921)
Piano Music - 3
Le Chant de la Terre - Poème Géorgique (1899-1900) [22:51]
Stances à Madame de Pompadour (1907) [6:27]
Pippermint-Get - Valse Brillante de Concert (1907) [4:18]
Piano Sonata in B flat minor (1898-99) [39:14]
Jordi Masó (piano)
rec. Auditorium, Jafre, Spain, 8-9 October 2011 DDD
NAXOS 8.572429 [73:03]
Naxos took a full decade to record a follow-up to volume 1 of French composer Déodat de Sévérac's piano music (8.555855). Now within a few months they have brought out a third - and presumably final - volume. It has been worth the wait, though. The warm reception for volume 2 (8.572428) is certain to be reprised for Jordi Masó's latest programme, which contains one of Sévérac's most important works, the Piano Sonata in B minor.
Curiously, in volumes 2 and 3 Sévérac has had a second 'é' added to his surname, absent from volume 1. New Grove is hardly of assistance as to the propriety of this alteration, using both spellings side by side. French sources generally prefer the single 'é' version, but in his notes veteran annotator Keith Anderson acknowledges Pierre Guillot's new biography of the composer (L'Harmattan, Paris 2010). This is an update of an earlier work by Guillot in which he used the form 'Séverac', but in a footnote in the new book he explains why the correct form must be 'Sévérac', even though the composer himself was known to vacillate.
Stances à Madame de Pompadour ('Stanzas...') is a simple but lovely French Baroque-influenced work of serene nostalgia. The jaunty and humorous waltz with the bizarre title Pippermint-Get derives its name from a French liqueur and the name of its inventor. The fragrantly modal, programmatic Chant de la Terre ('Song of the Earth') is a suite based on agricultural themes after Virgil's epic 'Georgics' poem, and like it not always reflecting rural idyll. Yet despite a hailstorm, the landsman's toils are rewarded with a 'Wedding Day' epilogue of bucolic joy.
The centrepiece of Masó's recital is the grand Piano Sonata in B minor. Though composed as an exercise set him by Vincent d'Indy, his instructor at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, it stands up well to scrutiny. The Sonata reprises some of the wistful atmosphere of the Stances, especially in the second-movement Elegy, which reflects, but not in a mawkish way, some of Sévérac's feelings at the recent loss of his father and sister. Overall, however, this gentle, genial work will be remembered for its blue-sky lyricism and unabashed nostalgia. The Sonata was not published until 1990, which is as surprising a fact as it is sad - Sévérac's subtly coloured, folk-inspired music should be as widely known as that of Fauré or even Debussy.
Catalan pianist Jordi Masó's personable nature comes out in his playing: relaxed and unassumingly expressive, his approach is intelligent without over-intellectualising, listener-friendly without patronising. He has already recorded extensively for Naxos (and Marco Polo earlier), specialising in Spanish and above all Catalan music: nine discs of Turina, six of Mompou, four of Homs, three of Montsalvatge, Donostia, Blancafort and more. His Catalan Piano Album (8.570457) makes an ideal sampler, but the present and other two Sévérac discs are money well spent by any fan of elegant, atmospheric and tuneful music well played.
Sound quality is very good, with consistency across all three volumes attributable to the fact that the same venue has been used. Anderson's notes are detailed and well written.
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Relaxed and unassumingly expressive, intelligent without over-intellectualising, listener-friendly without being patronising.
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