Dear Mademoiselle – A Tribute to Nadia Boulanger
Piazzolla: Le Grand Tango; Stravinsky: Suite italienne; N Boulanger: Three Pieces for Cello and Piano; plus works by E Carter, Legrand, Philip Glass and Quincy Jones
Nathanäel Gouin (piano), Astrig Siranossian (cello), Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA635 72:08 mins
Encouraged by a family friend, one Gabriel Fauré, who spotted their talent early, the Boulanger sisters Lili and Nadia (who was the elder) became respectively a composer of genius who died at only 24 and a pedagogue whose influence spread across a globe and a century. Nadia’s legacy is celebrated in this engaging and astonishingly varied assortment of music by a few of those whose lives she touched, from Stravinsky to Quincy Jones. What the composers have in common is that they do not sound remotely alike. Perhaps the ability to draw out the unique musical personality of each person was Boulanger’s genius.
Throughout, the versatile performers deliver this kaleidoscope of styles with magnificent flair. Astrig Siranossian and Nathanaël Gouin open with Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango – gritty, seductive playing here, and a superb contrast with Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne (arranged from Pulcinella, whose neo-classical style Boulanger promoted) in which Siranossian’s tone acquires a delicate and ironic Rococo slant. Next, Elliott Carter’s Cello Sonata stretches its players through a mesmerising fount of modernist challenges.
The shorter works are their own mostly impressive arrangements. The medley of Legrand comes over as perhaps a tad portentous, excessively virtuosic for its material, and the Soul Bossa Nova by Quincy Jones is not always idiomatically convincing, though great fun. But the whole is an illuminating and deeply meaningful collection, and moreover is rubber-stamped, in a way, by Daniel Barenboim, who plays the piano for the Three Pieces by Boulanger herself. He too was a student of ‘Dear Mademoiselle’.