This release marks the fifth CD issued by Naxos dedicated entirely to the music of Alexandre Tansman and is the second of the composer’s piano music. Belgian pianist and contemporary music specialist Eliane Reyes performs both piano programs by this composer who, during his lifetime, was considered a peer of such luminaries as Ravel, Roussel, Milhaud, Stravinsky and Bartók.
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) was a Polish-born composer who, after completing his studies in Warsaw, moved to France where he spent most of the remainder of his life. While the musically conservative atmosphere in Poland thwarted full acceptance of his music there, in Paris, he not only found enthusiastic acceptance for it but also encouragement from some of the greatest composers of his day, including Stravinsky and Ravel.
This program is made up of four suites for piano and the Three Ballades. All of the music is strikingly original and interesting, but it’s in the Ballades where Tansman’s most personal expressions are to be heard. Each Ballade is about ten minutes in length with distinctly contrasting sections and an overall plaintive tone. The sample in the sidebar is Ballade No. 1. Like the other two, which were all written in the space of about two months early in 1941, it’s rhapsodic in design with chromatic harmonies, a grave mood and at times, a rather improvisatory feeling.
In contrast to the Ballades, the other four sets of pieces are imbued with rhythmic, harmonic, melodic and formal characteristics of music from various times during the previous two centuries. While the music is not as tonally ambiguous as the Ballades, Tansman takes traditional forms and methods, personalizing them with many of the varied and far ranging harmonic options available to a composer of his time. Each has its own stylistic character. Cinq Impressions (1934) is influenced by jazz and French impressionism. Arabesques (1930) takes its influence from the Romantic and Post-Romantic eras with echoes of Chopin, Satie and Scriabin. Both Suite dans le style ancien (1929) and Eight Cantilenas (Homage to J.S. Bach) (1949) draw influences from the Baroque, especially in terms of rhythmic and formal design. There are many very lovely passages in these works.
If you are interested in seeking out more of Tansman’s piano music, Ms. Reyes excellent reading of the composer’s 24 Intermezzi and Petite Suite can be found on Naxos 8572266. There’s a few selections from that album in the video below.
Of Polish origin, Alexandre Tansman arrived in Paris in 1919 where he soon joined the ranks of the most prominent composers and musicians of his time. This programme ranges from the Suite dans le style ancien written in the fashionable neo-baroque style of the 1920s and ’30s, to the poetic Arabesques, the joyful Cinq Impressions and, with their tragic overtones, the Ballades Nos 1–3 which are among the composer’s most personal and original works. The post-war Eight Cantilenas were Tansman’s homage to the meditative aspects of JS Bach’s music. Eliane Reyes’s “memorably refined, dexterous and committed” (Gramophone) recording of Tansman’s 24 Intermezzi can be found on Naxos 8.572266.
Alexandre Tansman (12 June 1897 – 15 November 1986) was a Polish-born French composer and virtuoso pianist. He spent his early years in his native Poland, but lived inFrance for most of his life. His music is primarily neoclassical, drawing on his Polish-Jewish heritage as well as his French musical influences.
The Belgian pianist Eliane Reyes is a radiant personality on today’s music scene. Aged thirty-three, she has an astonishingly rich career as a result of her early vocation, having given her first concert when she was just five years old.
“An outstanding musical talent.” – Martha Argerich