Polish composer Alexandre Tansman’s Ballet Music conducted by Wojciech Michniewski

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COMPOSERS: Alexandre Tansman
WORKS: Sextuor – Ballet-bouffe; Bric à brac
PERFORMER: Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lukasz Borowicz, Wojciech Michniewski


On arriving in Paris in 1919, Polish composer Alexandre Tansman plucked up sufficient courage to show several of his compositions to Ravel. It was a judicious move since the great man was evidently so impressed with Tansman’s efforts that from then on he made it his business to promote his younger colleague as much as possible. Tansman’s connection to Ravel is particularly tangible in these two delightful ballet scores whose scenarios feature inanimate objects that come to life. In the earlier Sextuor (1923), the main protagonists are musical instruments: a violin and cello fight to the death for the attention of a flute, while trombone, bass drum and piano provide somewhat ironic commentary on the proceedings. Not surprisingly, Tansman exploits to the full the strongly defined characteristics of these instruments, from the ardent violin and sombre cello to the sultry flute and rambunctious trombone. The Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under ukasz Borowicz relishes Tansman’s orchestral virtuosity and delivers a sparkling performance.

Bric à brac (1935) is set in a Parisian flea market, where a huge number of second-hand goods take on fantastic and sometimes improbable transformations. For example, a tailor’s dummy becomes Gainsborough’s Amazon, and a jukebox turns into a Pleyel piano. This is a much more extended score than Sextuor, but no less striking with Tansman encompassing a wider array of musical styles, including obvious allusions to Gershwin in some jazzy dance music and Szymanowski in an erotically charged passage for solo violin and orchestra. Once again, the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra comes up trumps with exciting and totally committed playing. Two marvellous discoveries make a very attractive release indeed.


Erik Levi