Blanche Selva, piano: Une promenade musicale = Music of FRANCK, D’INDY, ROUSSEL, ALBENIZ, FAURE, DUKAS – Assoc. Blanche Selva

by | Dec 24, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Blanche Selva, piano: Une promenade musicale = FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major; GARRETA: Sardana; D’INDY: Depart matinal; Danses rythmiques; ROUSSEL: Sicilienne, OP. 14; ALBENIZ: Triana; SEVERAC: Ou l’on entend une vielle boite a musique; FAURE: Berceuse; Barcarolle No. 13; DUKAS: Variations, Interlude et Final – Blanche Selva, piano/Joan Massla, violin/Vincent D’Indy, piano/Lazare Levy, piano (Roussel)/Moris Rosenthal, piano (Albeniz)/Georges de Lausnay, piano (Severac)/Babeth Leonet (Faure) and Anita Siegel (Faure Berceuse)/Yvonne Lefebure (Dukas)

Association Blanche Selva RCP076, 57:55  [Distrib. by] **** :

We have here a musical matinee of sorts, gathered together from 78 rpms by engineer Luc Baiwir and the estate of Blanche Selva (1884-1942), distinguished Spanish pianist and pedagogue. Mme. Selva led a virtuoso’s career up until 1930, when paralysis claimed her left arm, and she had to abandon solo playing. Selva had begun recording in 1928, when technology introduced electrical inscriptions, which reproduced musical sounds more appreciatively than previous acoustical methods. While only two examples of Selva’s art grace this program, her colleagues, many composers themselves, contribute musical selections that testify to the salon ethos with which Selva surrounded herself as both performer and inspiration of these pieces.

The Selva/Massla collaboration in the Franck Sonata from 1930 Madrid has its sonic limits certainly, a decidedly hollow acoustic; but the finesse and linear style of the performance rivals every bit of the famed Thibaud/Cortot interpretation. Nasal, strident, impassioned, the Franck proceeds with uncanny directness of line, the tissue enhanced at every turn by modulations of color and nuance of marvelous, sensitive control. Violinist Masla, a pupil of Ysaye’s student Marchot, plays a 1717 Domenicus Montagnana of burnished tone. The Recitative-Fantasia movement may provide the most obvious example of the mystical aura Selva can project, but it is not the only moment that intimate clarity and the poetic haze merge in this recording. The plastic figures from Selva and Massla break through the otherwise four-square part-writing of the last movement’s rounds, an exquisitely poignant, soaring reading that belies its age.  Selva gives only one more musical moment: the Sardana from the C Minor Sonata by her friend and colleague Juli Garreta (1875-1925). A modal, angularly transparent toccata, the piece dances a taut line between Faure, Stravinsky, and Les Six.

Vincent D’Indy (1851-1931) complimented Selva as “one who has triumphed in these pages of great poetry” comprising Poeme des Montagnes. In his only surviving inscriptions, D’Indy plays his own percussive etude, Depart matinal from Tableaux de voyage, and one excerpt from Poeme des Montagnes. Danses rythmiques echo harmonic aspects of Debussy, though the hard patina looks to Ravel and Mompou. Selva premiered Rouseel’s Suite in F-sharp (1911); here, Lazare Levy (1882-1964) performs its only shellac incarnation, the haunted Sicilienne that hints at Ravel’s Miroirs. Albeniz dedicated his Triana (1907) to Selva, secure that its knotty pages would yield to her talents. We hear Moriz Rosenthal (1862-1946), titan of the Old School virtuosity, realize its quickly shifting contours with deft, resonant authority. Deodat de Severac (1872-1921) once confessed that “only Selva plays my music perfectly.” Severac’s perfumed pages appealed to American composer David Diamond, who brandished a score in his office at Juilliard. Here, Georges de Lausnay (1882-1964) plays a section of En vacances, “Where one can hear an old musicbox,” a tenderly martial piece that hints more than it proffers of childhood.

But childhood proves the very essence of Faure’s Dolly Suite, premiered by Selva and the composer on 20 March 1906. In the splendid collaboration between Anita Siegel (1921-1943) and Babeth Leonet (b. 1921), we have two pupils, of Lazare Levy and Marguerite Long, respectively, in ingenuous, music-box harmony, perfection. Babeth Leonet gives a solo performance of the Barcarolle 13 of Faure, which Selva debuted 23 April 1923. The post-Chopinesque harmonies often suggest the Pole’s own Barcarolle, but aspects of a ballade intrude into the modal, harmonic mix. Composer Paul Dukas wrote his Variations, Interlude et Final “in olden style” to parallel Franck’s Prelude, Aria et Final. Dukas acknowledged that Selva penetrated this piece in a  way “most astonishing.” On this disc, we hear Yvonne Lefebure (1898-1986), a fine devotee of the modern French school who had the honor to record the Mozart D Minor Concerto with Furtwaengler for EMI.  Lefubure traverses the darkling variants, all eleven of them, through their often labyrinthine progressions, several of which resemble Liszt etudes.

If these “replacement” pianists constitute only a dim reflection of Selva’s original art, they cast a fine light on a mighty personality in music.

–Gary Lemco

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