D'indy: Piano Works Vol 1 / Michael Schafer
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D’INDY Poème des Montagnes,. Tableaux de Voyage. Thème varié, fugue et chanson • Michael Schäfer (pn) • GENUIN GEN 87083 (73:24)
Vincent d’Indy, a notable composer for piano? Apart from the piano complement to the evergreen Symphonie Cévenole , the seldom heard Poème des Montagnes, and several misrepresentative attempts on the great Piano Sonata—which most listeners have probably dismissed as turgid and too long—d’Indy’s piano works are little-known, even to collectors. Yet his catalog is extensive. Indeed, this is the first of three generously filled CDs that stop just short of comprising the complete piano music. The current program is a revealing balance of works by the young enthusiast and the old master.
From 1881, as d’Indy turned 30, the suite Poème des Montagnes, a great fresco chronicling the courtship of his cousin—Isabelle de Pampalonne, whom he’d married in 1875—against the backdrop of the Cevennes mountains surrounding the family chateau, is dedicated to Chabrier, whose note of thanks put a finger on its strengths and weaknesses. Found “exquisite” were the “Bruyères” section, “Brouillard,” “which would be delicious on the orchestra,” “Plein air,” “A deux,” “and all the last pages. I’m not so keen on the ‘Danses rhythmiques’; to begin with, the writing and especially the rhythms are certainly unusual, but these rhythms are broken up by the use of the thumb in the left hand and by too many effects one after another with so little regularity in their disorder that I’ve no time to be either astonished or charmed. … In any case, you are a marvelous musician, with more skill than substance as yet, but inspired by the highest artistic ideals. Thank you, again, Affectionately, Emmanuel.” Schäfer animates it all—including the frantic “Danses”—with a muscular zest, dusting Diane Andersen’s lame account into the weeds (Talent 128, Fanfare 33:1), though for the ultimate finesse one would have to go back to LPs and the aptly named Jean Doyen’s account for Erato, picked up by the Musical Heritage Society, The French School from D’Indy to Roussel (MHS 1155/6/7). Doyen, by the way, takes the “Danses” at a more leisurely pace, ameliorating the clatter/clutter of d’Indy’s Gaiment direction.
The Tableaux de voyage are a baker’s dozen of souvenirs from a walking tour of the Black Forest and the Bavarian Alps composed in 1889. D’Indy thought well enough of them to orchestrate six of them two years later. From slender melodic gifts he wrings major charm to make eminently companionable music. By 1925 the master hand could compel engagement from the most rudimentary melody. In the Thème varié, fugue et chanson every note tells, keeping one’s attention on the stretch with the spectacle—or auricular—of so much done with so little. Michael Schäfer rises to every challenge with gratifying impetuosity, though his tone tends to a certain hardness and there is some occasional pedal-thumping. No matter. We are fortunate to have so much recondite fare given with such empathetic flair. Sound is immediate, detailed, and gutsy. Released at the end of 2007, this and its companions were slow to achieve domestic distribution and you are best advised to grab them before they disappear. Enthusiastically recommended.
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
Catalog Number: GEN87083
Composer: Vincent D'Indy
Performer: Michael Schäfer