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Teresa CARREÑO (1853-1917)
Rêverie - Selected Music for Piano
Nocturne - Souvenirs de Mon Pays, op.10 [7:14]
Caprice-Etude no.1, op.4 [7:05]
Prière, op.12 [3:03]
Rêverie-Impromptu, op.3 [6:53]
Marche Funèbre, op.11 [6:44]
Caprice-Etude no.2, op.6 [8:35]
Elegie, op.18 [6:04]
Mélodies, op.22 no.6: Plaintes au bord d'une Tombe, op.22 [9:46]
Impromptu - une Larme, op.5 [3:19]
Gottschalk Waltz op.1 [7:42]
Alexandra Oehler (piano)
rec. Mendelssohn-Saal, Das Gewandhaus, Leipzig, 13-15 April 2013.
GRAND PIANO GP660 [66:29]

The trilingual booklet notes by Ann-Katrin Zimmermann are among the most detailed yet in Grand Piano's burgeoning catalogue. That is not to say they are necessarily a great read, however: after a long-winded introductory paragraph in which the wonders of music are revealed - it "touches us, ... keeps us involved. By learning more about a musical composition, we learn more about not just the composer, but also about ourselves" - a rather hagiographic tone is adopted for the biography of Teresa Carreño which follows. This is typical of the hyperbolic, uncritical treatment of child prodigies by the media: "Enchanted critics celebrated the nine-year-old girl, who had trouble climbing onto the piano stool but then brilliantly performed compositions by both her teacher (Gottschalk) and Franz Liszt, surpassing the virtuoso-composers themselves." Various feats are mentioned but few hard dates are given in the essay, leaving the reader struggling to contextualise.
 
Zimmermann all but loses the plot when reflecting on the apparent emotional depth of Carreño's compositions: "It almost appears as if the life experiences of the following, turbulent years already resonate in these piano compositions; as if her music already foreshadows the tragic loss of her father, the premature death of her children and her failed marriages." Carreño was an immensely talented pianist and a very good composer, but did not possess a time machine.
 
A kind of South American Clara Schumann, Carreño composed quite a few works for her instrument on her international travels. German pianist Alexandra Oehler presents a selection here, all but one listed as first recordings. Only op.18 has appeared before, recorded by Clara Rodriguez for Nimbus a decade or so ago (NI 6103, review). In fact, Rodriguez's slightly more upbeat recital makes an ideal companion to Oehler's.
 
In a sense the album title 'Rêverie' puts it succinctly - most of these works have an ethereal, almost hypnotic quality. They are not dreamy or soppy, though - if Chopin and Mendelssohn had lived a while longer, this is what some of their music at least might have sounded like. Like them, Carreño has an innate sense of melody and harmonic colour that makes listeners feel they have always known her music. The simple but ravishing Marche Funèbre is a case in point. It opens similarly to Chopin's famous funeral march, then assumes the lyrical beauty of a Mendelssohnian song without words. Some will deem her music derivative, yet there is often a dark undercurrent flowing through these incredibly idiomatic scores that not only give the lie to her biological age at the time of writing - for several she was, incredibly, less than ten years old - but also separate her from other composer-pianists.
 
For her part, Alexandra Oehler does a very good impression of Carreño the prodigious pianist, caressing her way with delicacy of feeling and, when called for - as in the Caprice-Etude no.2 - flinging her fingers with military precision up and down the keyboard.
 
The accompanying booklet for once does not sport a like-it-or-lump-it print by Gro Thorsen, but a fetching, aptly dreamy picture by Tony Price. Inside, the Gottschalk Waltz op.1 is wrongly listed as 'Gottschalk Waltz no.1'. The notes have been translated into English by a non-native, giving them a slight foreign accent.
 
Audio quality is very good, if slightly reverberant.
 
Byzantion
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