Tansman: Piano Works

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COMPOSERS: Tansman
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Works: Recueil de Mazurkas; Album d’amis; Sonata rustica; Troisième Sonatine; Trois Préludes en forme de Blues; Quatre Nocturnes
PERFORMER: Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10527

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Polish-born, French-naturalised, a Rachmaninov lookalike, and a fluent and formidable pianist, Alexandre Tansman settled in between-the-wars Paris in much the same way that his music did.

The earlier items among this selection of Tansman’s huge output of piano miniatures conform scrupulously and unpretentiously to the kind of atmospheric modishness that was in the Parisian air at the time. A very similar type of mild bitonality colours both the post-Chopinesque Recueil de Mazurkas and the Ravel-suffused Sonata rustica and Third Sonatina; the ‘Blues Preludes’ are a benign genre of sub-Gershwin.

All this suggests a composer resembling a Polish Granados – a master of winsome small forms, but lacking the strong individuality which then belatedly flowered in Granados’s Goyescas. And something like this evidently happened to the older Tansman too. The Four Nocturnes, dedicated to Stravinsky on his 70th birthday, are spare, concise, strongly contrasted, searchingly individual, and altogether a class apart from their predecessors here.

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So are the best items – ‘Notturno’, ‘Caprice’, ‘Hommage à Liszt’ – from the Album d’amis of 1980. While Margaret Fingerhut’s fine playing doesn’t quite have the touch of roguishness that the ‘Blues Preludes’ really need, in every other respect her performances are beautifully accomplished throughout. Malcolm Hayes