The thrill of musical discovery is only a few clicks away, as I create my own impromptu piano recital
I was doing some post-dinner reading and came across the name of French pianist Marcelle Meyer, pictured at left with six of her composer friends (Les Six: Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc).
Her story and legacy has inspired Tharaud, so I thought I'd check her out. My reading and then listening on YouTube turned into a fantastic, intimate piano recital (having nice speakers on my home computer helps a lot).
There is something Tharaud said in an interview last year that goes to the core of what we hear when we listen to an interpreter.
This is my own translation: "A pianist who hides behind a text probably doesn't realise that he is presenting himself naked on disc. When I listen to a pianist, I hear the composer and the interpreter's life in equal aprts.
"When Marcelle Mayer plays Mozart, I hear as much of Mozart's times as I do of Marcelle Meyer's."
Meyer, born in the northern city of Lille in 1897, entered the Conservatoire in Paris when she was 14. The legendary Alfred Cortot was her main teacher. Between her incredible musicality and marriage to actor Pierre Bertin in 1917, Meyer quickly arrived at the centre of French cultural life and became a fierce champion of contemporary French music.
She premiered pieces by Eric Satie and the second book of Preludes by Claude Debussy. She left a small but impressive stack of discs, recorded just when the quality of sound reproduction made a significant leap forward in the 1940s and '50s.
Meyer also championed the keyboard music of the Baroque era -- Couperin, Rameau and Bach, in particular.
She was planning a North American tour in 1958 when she died suddenly at her sister's piano.
Here is a little recital for you, ending with a clip from a concert in Rome (where she plays Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain) from six months before her death. What impresses me the most by Meyer's playing is the absolute clarity of her thinking. We don't play Baroque music like this any more, but, in listening to her play, I find a lot to love. Her Ravel and Debussy are magical, and give us some insight over how the composer wanted the music to sound.
Instead of some Mozart, I've inserted a Haydn sonata in the middle. It's a noisy recording, unfortunately, and a bit ungainly in interpretation.
We'll start, as everyone should (he wrote, primly), with J.S. Bach -- in this case the mind-twisting "Chromatic" Fantasy and Fugue, in D minor, BWV 903. The penultimate clip is with our special guest, Darius Milhaud, the composer, on the other piano: