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Paul PARAY (1886-1979)
Piano Works - Volume 1
Thème et Variations (1913) [11:53]
Romance, Op 21 (1909) [3:45]
Tarentelle (1910) [3:32]
D'une âme (?) [17:47]
Incertitude (1910) [2:17]
Portraits d’enfants (1910) [3:67]
Berceuse (?) [3:17]
Morceau de lecture; Allegretto [1:43]
Valse in F-sharp minor (1906) (completed by Edouard Perrone) [3:35]
Valse sur un theme de Schubert (1910) [2:26]
Valse in F minor (?) [2:15]
La vraie Furlana (1914) [2:51]
Eliane Reyes (piano)

Rhythm held a fascination with Paul Paray since early childhood, with pots and pans substituting for drums as a toddler. Later he was to study music at the Paris Conservatoire and, as a young composer, became fascinated with the waltz, which was in vogue in the salons of the Belle Epoque. Chabrier, Ravel and Schmitt, to quote three composers, all made contributions to the genre. Four examples feature on this recording. The Waltz in F-sharp minor from 1906 was left unfinished, and was only completed by Eduard Perrone as late as 2005. That same year he penned a Valse-caprice in B minor, and initially dedicated it to his sister Marie, a pianist and organist. The dedication changed on publication to Jean Verd, a pianist who specialized in performing Fauré. A short Waltz in F minor was found among his manuscripts after his death. Valse sur un theme de Schubert was a competition entry in 1910. Each of the waltzes is a charming and melodious creation.

Reyes opens her programme with Theme and Variations from 1913. The theme itself, in the cosy key of B-flat major, is glowing, tender and homely. The variations which follow are deftly crafted. The first consists of cascading glistening arpeggios. No 3 rises to potent intensity, whilst the fourth consists of rapid scale passages alternating in both hands. The fifth variation is a rapid syncopated toccata. Romantic and dreamy is how I’d characterize No 8 in the key of G minor. Another toccata-like variation ends the cycle.

Paray was a melodically gifted composer, as is revealed in the beguiling Romance and the soothing Berceuse, the latter dedicated to his teacher Xavier Leroux. His penchant for dance rhythms can be heard in the foot-tapping and quixotic Tarentelle of 1910. A piece like Incertitude, from the same year and dedicated to his mentor Henri Dallier, pitches hesitancy against coquettish surprise.

The substantial suite D'une âme originates from a time during the First World War when Paray was incarcerated in the Darmstadt camp. During these dark days he assembled a book of diverse pieces which he’d composed earlier. The booklet describes them as “….a panoply of Études-tableaux, nine brief psychological sketches imbued with unclouded happiness and alternating contrasting climates”. Naïve has a wide-eyed innocence, whereas malicieuse is quirky and malevolent. Légère evokes the spirit of the peasant dance. If you want fireworks, then look no further than joyeuse.

Reyes ends her recital with the tango La vraie Furlano. The dance was sweeping Europe at the time of the start of the First World War and was condemned by the Church as being lascivious. This catchy piece is by Paolo Apria, a pseudonym which Paray used when he wrote light music .

What we have is a delightful selection of tonally pleasing music by a composer many will be familiar with only through his conducting. Eliane Reyes’ performances are superb and radiate infectious enthusiasm. A CD of Paray’s chamber music was released by Azur Classical, Ciar Classical’s predecessors, in 2017 (review).

Stephen Greenbank

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