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Marie JAËLL (1846-1925)
A Portrait - Musique symphonique, musique pour piano
rec. September 2012-September 2015
ISBN 978-84-608-3017-7 (hardback, 135 pp.)
EDICIONES SINGULARES ES1022 [3 CDs: 55:16 + 58:24 + 59:05]

Although regarded as a French composer, Marie Jaëll was born in the small Alsatian village of Steinseltz. This actually came under German rule for most of her life but changed nationality three times during her lifetime alone. This probably accounts for the unique cultural identity of the area. A virtuoso pianist in her own right, Jaëll’s music, despite having the occasional flashes of Fauré and Saint-Saëns, is deeply rooted in the German Romantic tradition. She idolised Franz Liszt, although most of the music presented here shows the influence of Schumann and Brahms. Although she is chiefly remembered today as a teacher and for the development of the Jaëll Method of teaching the piano, her compositions are more than just competent. They display great technique and ability as well as being interesting in their own right.

Of the three discs presented in this survey the most pleasing is disc two, with the piano concertos being the real stars. They are both strong and full of character, but it is the C minor concerto which sticks in the mind. The final Vivace non troppo of the piece you end up humming to yourself. I find it hard to believe that these works have not featured in Hyperion’s The Romantic Piano Concerto series. Of the other works, I find the music more inspired when Jaëll composes for her own instrument. In this respect the Cello Concerto shows a little less ambition and inspiration than the two piano concertos, although it does have a beautiful slow movement. It’s just a bit short and could have been developed a further. The orchestral song cycle La Légende des ours is of interest with its veiled humour. I particularly enjoyed the fourth song Amour involontaire.

It is in the pieces for solo piano and piano four hands that the greatest influence of Schumann and Brahms can be seen. There's also the occasional glimpse of Liszt. The structure of some of these works is quite Schumannesque while other individual pieces are more Brahmsian. They are quite colourful miniature gems; certainly more than mere parlour exercises. It is here however that I have a problem with the make-up of this set, I was introduced to Marie Jaëll by a friend who loaned me volume 2 of Cora Irsen’s survey of Jaëll’s piano music on Querstand (VKJK1510). It presents the 18 pièces pour piano d’après la lecture de Dante complete. Here we only get the six extracts played by David Bismuth. I find his performance preferable and it only leaves me wanting to hear him play the complete sequence.

Overall the performances are very good. Yes there is the odd occasion when the soprano, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, sounds as if she reaches her limit, but she manages never to sound strained and her diction is excellent. All the pianists as well as Xavier Phillips play wonderfully well and they are superbly supported by both orchestras and conductors. The sound is very good apart from in Les Beaux Jours on CD1. Here I feel the microphone has been positioned a little close to the piano leading to the occasional slight distortion, but not enough to upset your enjoyment. As for the the vintage Érard it sounds lovely.

The presentation, as always with Ediciones Singulares is in the form of a hardback book with the 3 CDs slipped inside the covers. It is an excellent format that gives scope for scholarly and in-depth articles, with photographs and full song texts with translations. We even get excerpts from Jaëll’s own writings, which I must confess to not having read yet. The articles about her are more detailed than any to be found anywhere else. This all adds up to a truly wonderful introduction to a remarkable woman and to her music. I hope that it will be the impetus for further investigation by other companies. I do hope so, as what is presented here shows a wealth of talent and ability. We are assured, by the way, that this is a limited edition of 2500 sets.

Stuart Sillitoe

List of Contents
CD 1
La Légende des ours
1 Folies d’ours [3:04]
2 Amour brûlant [4:37]
3 Désirs ardents [4:48]
4 Amour involontaire [4:30]
5 Union malheureuse [5:15]
6 Épilogue [2:35]
Chantal Santon-Jeffery (soprano)
Brussels Philharmonic/Hervé Niquet
rec. Flagey Studio 4, Brussels, Belgium, 29-30 June, 1 and 3 July 2015
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in F Major
7 Allegro moderato [6:46]
8 Andantino sostenuto [4:49]
9 Vivace molto [4:37]
Xavier Phillips (cello)
Brussels Philharmonic/Hervé Niquet
rec. Flagey Studio 4, Brussels, Belgium, 1, 3 July 2015
Les Beaux Jours
10 Calme d’un beau jour [1:32]
11 Berger et Bergère [0:55]
12 Murmures des forêts [1:52]
13 Incendie de broussailles [0:57]
14 Tocsin [0:50]
15 Les Senteurs du jasmin [1:40]
16 Murmures du ruisseau [0:49]
17 Après la valse [0:53]
18 Aimable Badinage [1:02]
19 Le Pâtre et l’Écho [1:42]
20 On rit [0:31]
21 On rêve au mauvais temps [1:32]
Dana Ciocarlie, (piano)
rec. Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice, Italy, 14 September 2015
CD 2
Concerto for piano and Orchestra No. 2 in C minor
1 Allegro [12:09]
2 Andante [2:22]
3 Più lento [2:44]
4 Vivace non troppo [8:08]
David Violi (piano)
Orchestre national de Lille/Joseph Swensen
rec. Salle Jacques Brell, Fâches Thumesnil, France, 4-5 September 2012
Concerto for piano and Orchestre No. 1 in D minor
5 Lento / Allegro moderato [11:32]
6 Adagio [8:17]
7 Allegro con brio [13:13]
Romain Descharmes (piano)
Orchestre national de Lille/Joseph Swensen
rec. Salle Jacques Brell, Fâches Thumesnil, France, 6-7 September 2012
CD 3
Douze Valses et Finale pour piano à quatre mains
1 Allegro con brio [0:53]
2 Moderato [1:54]
3 Animato giocoso [1:05]
4 Allegro fuocoso [1:08]
5 Capriccioso [2:05]
6 Quasi lento con tenerezza [1:58]
7 Tempo giusto [1:14]
8 Allegretto cantabile [1:46]
9 Allegretto amoroso [1:30]
10 Andantino melanconico [1:43]
11 Allegro armonioso [1:57]
12 Allegro dolce fantastic [2:09]
13 Finale : Vivace fuocoso [1:23]
Lidija andSanja Bizjak (piano, Érard 1902)
rec. Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice, Italy, 8 March 2014
Ce qu’on entend dans l’Enfer (extracts)
14 Appel [5:24]
15 Blasphèmes [2:59]
18 pièces pour piano d’après la lecture de Dante
Ce qu’on entend dans le Purgatoire (extracts)
16 Presentiments [3:41]
17 Maintenant et Jadis [4:58]
Ce qu’on entend dans le Paradis (extracts)
18 Apaisement [2:31]
19 Quiétude [3:03]
David Bismuth (piano)
rec. Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice, Italy, 11 October 2014
Les Jours pluvieux
20 Quelques Gouttes de pluie [0:54]
21 Vent et Pluie [0:51]
22 Grisaille [1:50]
23 Petite Pluie fine [0:46]
24 En querelle [0:45]
25 À l’abri [1:15]
26 Morose [0:54]
27 On pleure [1:21]
28 L’Orage ne vient pas [1:35]
29 Roses flétries [1:56]
30 Ennuyeux comme la pluie [1:13]
31 On rêve au beau temps [1:59]
Nicolas Stavy (piano)
rec. Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice, Italy, 6 March 2015

Contents of the book
Alban Ramaut: Marie Jaëll
Sébastien Troester: A passion for composing
Marie-Laure Ingelaere: Marie Jaëll through the eyes of her correspondents
Florence Launay: Marie Jaëll and the other women French composers from the end of the 19th century
Marie Jaëll: Music and Psychophysiology (excerpt)
Marie Jaëll: The Rhythms of the Gaze and the Dissociation of the Fingers (excerpt)



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