CHABRIER: Integrale pour Piano 2 et 4 Mains – Bruno Canino & Bertrand Giraud, pianos – Anima (2 CDs)

by | Aug 25, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

CHABRIER: Integrale pour Piano 2 et 4 Mains = Bouree fantasque; Air de Ballet; Petite Valse; Habanera; Marche de Cipayes; 10 Pieces Pittoreques; Souvenir de Brunehaut; Impromptu; Caprice; Ronde Champetre; Feullet d’album; Aubade; Ballabile; Trois Valses; Prelude et Marche Francaise; Cortege Burlesque; Souvenirs de Munich — Bruno Canino & Bertrand Giraud, pianos – Anima ANM/130300002 (2 CDs) 65:01; 73:11 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Few composers quite dazzle the imagination as does the musical autodidact Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1893), whose unique sense of harmony and color may well have altered the course of French music in the late Nineteenth Century. As a pianist, he made an unlikely virtuoso, but his performances could be volcanic. An adherent of Wagner, Chabrier managed to resist or contain that composer’s influence in a puzzling and frequently exotic amalgam of wit, grace, and charm; and pieces like his amazing Idyll cast a permanent fascination for both performer and listener. “Perhaps I have more temperament than talent,” admitted Chabrier. But that temperament, informed by studies of Chopin, Wagner, and Schumann, enjoyed the benefit of unconstrained flights of fancy aided by a delicious modality and spicy dissonances – for example in his acerbic Aubade for four hands – and an Auvergne heritage that loved Mediterranean rhythm.

Bruno Canino (b. 1936) whom I knew from his work with violinist Zino Francescatti, plays solo works and then joins Bertrand Giraud (b. 1971) for four-hand compositions on the Fazioli keyboard, of which two, Souvenir de Brunehaut and Prelude et March Francaise, dominate. In the course of some thirty selections, Chabrier reveals a many-faceted sound image, certainly sparkling in the manner of his most esteemed 1883  Espana Rhapsody but no less chromatically provocative after the style of Wagner, as in his Caprice, whose ninth chords could be construed to have been penned by Faure or Koechlin. The Ronde Champetre smacks of Schumann’s trying hard to forecast both Debussy and Poulenc. The Auvergne rhythm carries echoes of Chopin’s Ballades, too. The Feuillet d’album casts a direct yet modal simplicity that likely Michel Legrand would envy. The pentatonic scale – or some idiosyncratic variation – informs the askew Aubade, followed by an impish miniature in a swirling Ballabile. The three Valses do everything but compose Ravel for himself. Brittle and flighty, they often weave both intricate, romantic harmonies and jarring, passing dissonances, pertly ironic. The last of the set employs a scale whose chaste but exotic sound could only have enchanted Debussy or Gottschalk, since it invokes aspects of each composer, especially in its Spanish polyrhythms.

The Prelude et Marche Francaise will demonstrate a clear Wagnerian influence in the former section, then the piece erupts into the familiar Marche joyeuse of orchestral fame. As a tour de force for four hands, it provides plenty of pyrotechnical display for the principals. The Cortege Burlesque caters to Chabrier’s flamboyant boulevardier sensibilities, adumbrating Ravel, Poulenc, and Satie at once. One might even ascribe certain aerial, “ragtime” riffs to Scott Joplin. The five movements that comprise Souvenirs de Munich project an aggressive, angularly optimistic, irreverent energy, again with clear (in “Ete” and “Poule”) allusions to Tristan und Isolde. The percussive “Pastourelle” and militant “Galop” conclude the Munich suite in blithe spirits, tempered by a hint of wistful nostalgia.

Canino solo makes an excellent case for our requiring more Chabrier in keyboard recitals. The 1880 Pieces Pittoresques, recall, elicited from Cesar Franck at the 1881 premier that “something exceptional [has transpired] linking the music of our own time to that of Couperin and Rameau.” Chabrier’s musical persona splices together ballet, French chanson, Spanish rhythm, and French vaudeville theater by way of polyphonic Offenbach. The sultry Habanera proves as effective for the solo piano as it does in the orchestral guise. The playful Mauresque from the Pieces Pittoresques anticipates Debussy’s Soiree dans Granade but with a debonair nonchalance that the Debussy lacks. The Tourbillon first mocks Berlioz, then Mendelssohn and maybe Liszt. Most “impressionistic,” Sous-Bois sets a C Major ostinato against any number of remote harmonies that create the illusion of stasis even as the simple melodic line weaves its way forward. I think its model is Chopin’s A Minor Prelude. While the Menuet Pompeux in G Minor casts a long glance at the musical past, the final Scherzo-Valse asserts that capricious, “modern” brio and suave elan that forms the very essence of the Chabrier mystique.

Heartily recommended for any music-lover’s library of delectable collections of keyboard repertory.

—Gary Lemco