Exil: Piano music by composers with roots in 2 continents / Eric Le Van, piano


This album from the Music & Arts label titled "Exil" (Exile) is subtitled "Piano Music by Composers with Roots in Two Continents". Each of the five composers represented fled Europe for the United States during the 1930s, among an exodus of some 30,000 artists and intelligentsia who, for fear of persecution if not their lives, were abruptly forced to make new homes half a world away from their motherland. Pianist Eric Le Van, who is also the author of the concept behind this album, asserts that the loss, displacement and heartache which were common between them were somehow a shaping force in their music. After listening to these beautiful, often mystical and other-worldly piano pieces, I have to agree.

As part of the creative process, inspiration springs from "our rare moments of non-rational perception" states Mr. Le Van in the excellent album notes. All of these pieces are somehow marked by feelings of innocence, yearning and a childlike enchantment. They are dreamlike. Some of these dreams are sunny and blissful while others are dark and chilling. But it's a sense of longing that is the common thread running through all the music here; and the music is wonderful! Much of it too is appearing for the first time on CD. The Schoenberg Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op.19 is well represented in the catalog and Korngold's Four Waltes for Piano is available in other versions, but only a couple. The other pieces by Ernst Toch, Erich Zeisl and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco are largely appearing on disc for the first time.

The Four Waltzes for Piano by Erich Korngold evokes a heady yearning for "an irretrievably lost Vienna," (Le Van). Erich Zeisl's Klavierstücke 'November', is imbued with melancholy nostalgia, momentarily lapsing into a guileless bliss for brief periods. The sample provided in the sidebar is one of three pieces by Ernst Toch (1887-1964), his Scherzo, op. 11. You can also sample Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's I Naviganti (1919) by playing the video below. If you want to hear more, you can listen to many brief samples on the HBDirect website. Congratulations to Mr. Le Van for this very thoughtful project and for his eloquently musical performances.