Neglected Works For Piano
Vitezslava KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915-1940)
April Preludes, Op. 13 (1937) [9:42]
Amy BEACH (1867-1944)
Scottish Legend, Op. 54 No. 1 (1903) [2:33]
Doreen CARWITHEN (1922-2003)
Sonatina (1946) [13:37]
Valborg AULIN (1860-1928)
Feuille d’album (1889) [3:11]
Valse élégiaque (1892) [5:30]
Ruth ALMÉN (1870-1945)
Sonata in B Minor Op. 2 (1919) [17:05]
Grazyna BACEWICZ 1909-1969)
Sonatina (1955) [7:05]
Germaine TAILLEFERRE (1892-1983)
Trois pastorales (1919, 1928, 1929) [8:12]
Ruth Crawford SEEGER (1892-1953)
Prelude for Piano No. 6 “Andante Mystico” (1928) [3:23]
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
rec. 7-9 June 2015 Västerĺs Konserthus Sweden

Bengt Forsberg, best known outside Sweden as Anne Sophie von Otter’s accompanist, is a fine pianist of wide-ranging curiosity. He calls this disc “Neglected works for piano.” Upon inspection, this succinct title turns out to refer to works written by women. Forsberg denies that this is a ‘politically correct’, and listeners will quickly discover that the disc is designed to call attention to outstanding music for its own sake. These are not necessarily first recordings, but the works are all underperformed.

The music covers a wide range, with compositions written between 1889 and 1955, a period of great stylistic variety. The pieces reflect this diversity, albeit usually within a relatively conservative aesthetic. There are eight composers of six nationalities, with two Swedish, two American, and Czech, British, French, and Polish musicians.

Vitezslava Kaprálová was a Bohuslav Martinu pupil. These four April Preludes were dedicated to Rudolf Firkusny, and show a strong Czech national element. Kaprálová seems a distinctive voice, with a playful touch that stands out in a collection of mostly serious music. Moods change rapidly even within these short movements. The limpid andante, for instance, ends with an unexpected bit of flash. The final movement has a mocking undertone. Kaprálová died prematurely of tuberculosis when she was 25, though leaving a surprising number of compositions, including an impressive String Quartet.

Ruth Almén’s Sonata is impassioned and rather unyielding, but never sappy. Hers is a strong voice, perhaps indifferent to her audience, as Forsberg suggests. There is something relentless about the opening movement, balanced by the calm of the following Andante. The final Allegro energico is once again insistent. This work’s intensity makes one curious about the children’s books written by the composer.

Doreen Carwithen’s Sonatina is full of quiet yearning. Lighter in texture than Almén’s work, her Sonatina features a quiet and graceful Adagio. Carwithen had a successful career as a composer for films. It may not be too much to imagine these three movements as scenes in the film of your imagination.

Grazyna Bacewicz writes spritely melodies, taut rhythms, and sometimes biting harmonies. The cool, detached touch of Bartok finds echoes in these three short movements, of which the final Oberek is the showiest.

Germaine Tailleferre’s three Pastorales provide the clean lines and refreshing harmonies associated with other members of Les Six. This is music which sounds simpler than it is; the Pastorale in C, dedicated to Alfred Cortot, is the best. Forsberg varies his approach to all these works appropriately, adopting a gently flowing touch for Tailleferre.

Those are the multi-movement compositions, although only two of them last longer than ten minutes. The remaining three composers are represented by even smaller-scale works. Amy Beach’s Scottish Legend snaps along beguilingly. Valborg Aulin’s salon pieces feature quiet melodies and refined harmonies, and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Prelude concludes the disc in an ethereal mood.

This is a wide-ranging survey, and most listeners will discover some works that they regret not knowing earlier. Forsberg’s performances are immaculate. This bundle of unexpected pleasures is presented in first class recorded sound, with notes by Forsberg that are informative and sometimes wry.

Richard Kraus

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