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Husum 2021 DACOCD939

Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum - From the 2021 Festival
rec. live, 13-21 August 2021, Schloss vor Husum, Germany

It is always an enjoyable time of the year when I have the pleasure and privilege of reviewing the latest instalment of Danacord’s selection of Rarities of Piano Music from the annual festival held at the North-German castle of Schloss vor Husum. The festival is now in its 35th year (2020 was cancelled due to Covid). Much of that lost year’s programme was replanned in 2021 – with all the necessary restrictions. Despite the challenges, the festival went swimmingly, and this disc is a small but important souvenir.

The album opens with two extracts from Venezuelan-born French composer Reynaldo Hahn’s Le ruban dénoué (The Ribbon Unties) for two pianos. The first movement has an equally eccentric title: Décrets indolents du hazard (Indolent decrees of chance). The liner notes cite Hahn: “I have tried to capture moments and emotions of importance in my life, composing either in officer’s quarters, in the forest or hiding under the thunder of bombardment.” To be sure, I have not heard the entire suite, but the two pieces here show no sign of stress and strain that this resumé would suggest. The beguiling waltz confuses alternate bars 3/4 time with quartoles – four notes in three beats. This is followed by a Valse Lente which is really a slightly mordant barcarolle. It is entitled Souvenir…avenir (Memory…Future).

I wish Danacord could have included the entire Jazz Suite by Alexander Tsfasman, the Soviet jazz pianist, composer, conductor, arranger, publisher and activist. This remarkable work, originally scored for solo piano and orchestra, was transcribed for two pianos by Igor Tsyganov. The two selected movements are the “swooning” Lyrica Waltz and runaway fingering in the Career Presto. It is not “hot jazz” but more in the style of Zez Confrey’s and Billy Mayerl’s less up tempo numbers. Ludmila Berlinskaya and Arthur Ancelle give a delightful performance, full of vim, vigour and sentimentality where required. I understand that they have recorded the entire suite on the Melodyia label.

Cecile Chaminade’s 6 Romances sans Paroles became one of her most popular collections. Two pieces have been included here. Meditation, reminiscent of Schumann, features opulent harmonies, a delicious tune and some rare modulations. Elevation is noteworthy: presented in a gently throbbing 6/8 time, it builds to a considerable climax within the constraints its short duration. The liner notes describe it as “French accented Mendelssohn”, an appropriate analogy.

Simon Callaghan played Josef Holbrooke’s attractive Bridal Ballad. The liner notes explain that it was “trailing his new album of the composer’s music on the Lyrita label” (SRCD 395). The piece is the fifth of the 8 Nocturnes. Originally part of a now lost suite, this Ballad is “gentle, smiling” and heart-easing. There is little of the angst expressed in Poe’s poem, which concerns a widow who was recently married to a wealthy and loving man but yet fears that the spirit of her dead husband may disapprove. I look forward to hearing the other seven Nocturnes.

Although the name of Percy Sherwood sounds archetypically English, he was born and bred in Dresden, albeit with a British father. He was a prolific composer. Some of his works have been rediscovered in recent years. Hiroaki Takenouchi played the gentle Barcarole written in 1915. This gorgeous work muses on the song of Venetian gondoliers rather than the horrors of the Western Front. Based on the sheer beauty of this piece, it is surely time for a reappraisal of Sherwood’s piano music.

Florian Noack played two movements from Josef Suk’s characteristic suite Things Lived and Dreamt. They are usually described as the “Diary of an Artist.” The impressionistic Moderato is densely chromatic. It balances “carefree gaiety” with music that is “yearning and dreaming in expression”. The second number recorded here is a Poco Andante which Suk called to be played “Whispering and Mysterious”. The effect here is created by harp-like runs of demi-semiquavers, and once again it is thickly chromatic. I understand that Noack played the entire cycle. It is certainly a work that I wish to explore in its totality.

French pianist Nicholas Stavy concluded his recital at Husum with Franz Schubert’s Mélodie hongroise. This surely came as light relief after his playing of the piano version of Haydn’s Seven Last Words and the original piano version of Liszt’s tone poem From the Cradle to the Grave. Schubert’s little number clearly suggests the fire and rhythm of Magyar music. It was finished when he was in Hungary in 1824.

The Russian pianist Zlata Chochieva played three Rachmaninov rarities. The Grieg-sounding Prelude in F is wistful in its gentle exposition. It was originally one of Two Pieces for cello and piano. There are considerable echoes of his Piano Concerto No. 1 completed just a couple of weeks before the Prelude. The short Morceau de fantaisie is characterised by rapid semiquavers. The Oriental Sketch has nothing to do with the folk music from the Far East. It is a short study evoking the Orient Express, replete with locomotive rhythms. Applause on the record greets Chochieva’s superb performance of these miniatures. Earlier in the recital, Chochieva had played the second of Franz Liszt’s Valses oubliées. There is a mood of restlessness throughout. Generally, these four waltzes cast a backward glance on bitter-sweet memories.

Issay Dobrowen was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor. In 1922, he left the Soviet Union to become a Norwegian citizen. The present one-movement late-Romantic Jugend-Sonate is hardly a cinch or teaching piece. Nods to Rachmaninoff abound at every turn. Peter Froundjian’s outstanding performance is one of my discoveries on this CD.

The final contribution is Ruud Langgaard’s The Sea of Silence, the eighth movement in the suite Gitanjali-Hymner. Inspired by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, it explores the lines “Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence.” Despite the grandeur of these words, Langgaard’s music is languid and wistful.

I have noted the excellent performances during my review. The recording is ideal in every way. Jesper Buhl’s liner notes are perfect. Altogether, this is a rewarding selection of largely romantic piano music that covers a considerable stylistic diversity. I look forward to the next edition of Rarities this time next year.

John France
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
Le ruban dénoué for two pianos (1915)
No. 1 Décrets indolents du hasard; No. 3 Souvenir ... avenir
Alexander Tsfasman (1996-1971)
Jazz-Suite for two pianos (c.1945)
No.3 Lyrical Waltz; No.4 Career. Presto
Duo Berlinskaya/Ancelle
Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944)
6 Romances sans paroles op. 76 (1893)
No. 6 Méditation [4:38]; No.2 Élévation
Josef Holbrooke (1878-1958)
8 Nocturnes op. 121 (1937)
No.5 'Bridal Ballad' (Edgar Allan Poe)
Simon Callaghan
Percy Sherwood (1866-1939)
Barcarole No. 2 op. 24 (1915)
Hiroaki Takenouchi
Josef Suk (1874-1935)
Things Lived and Dreamt op. 30 (1909)
No. 6 Moderato quasi Allegretto (With an expression of quiet carefree gaiety); No. 9 Poco Andante (Whispering and mysteriously)
Florian Noack
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Mélodie hongroise in B minor, D817
Nicolas Stavy
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Valse oublie No.2 (1883)
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Prelude in F Major (1891); Morceau de fantaisie in G minor (1899); Oriental Sketch (1917)
Zlata Chochieva
Issay Dobrowen (1894-1953)
Jugend-Sonate, Op. 5b (pub.1925)
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952)
Gitanjali-Hymner (after Tagore) BVN 149: VIII Tavshedens Hay (The Sea of Silence) (Version 1929) BVN 201
Peter Froundjian

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