Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jules Massenet - Piano Music - Aldo Ciccolini







Massenet wrote in Mes Souvenirs (Paris, 1912) that he was unsuited to writing large-scale symphonic works: "It bores me to have to spin out my thoughts, to develop them, pursue them ceaselessly, and still have to return to them relentlessly." Yet this is not quite fair to the Concerto (of 1902), which has plenty of themes, and even some moments of dramatic impetus. The solo part is never outstandingly effective, and it is evident that although Massenet is well able to Jules Massenet compose simple genre pieces for the piano, he is not capable of virtuoso writing for the instrument. This piece is enjoyable in its way, however, with plenty of his easy-going melodiousness, and is played with apparent conviction by Ciccolini and the Monte Carlo orchestra under Cambreling. By no means all of the items heard on the piano alone here were originally intended for that instrument. For example, the second and third of the Trois Marches are transcriptions of the "Interméde" and finale of Massenet's orchestral Scenes hongroises, while Devant la Madone, an impression of the Roman countryside at Christmas, was first a piece for small orchestra, and the "Danse galiléenne" is an excerpt from La Vierge, an oratorio. Other Massenet works are referred to obliquely, the first of the Improvisations, for instance, anticipates Maritana's "Ballade Aragonaise" in Don CCsar de Bazan. Similarly No. 5 of the Dix Pièces turns out to be the all too familiar "Elégie" from his incidental music to Les Erinnyes.
These excellently recorded discs will be played Out of curiosity rather than in expectation of any deep musical satisfactions. Ciccolini performs everything sympathetically and, in particular, with an exact sense of scale. M.H.


flac, covers


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