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FRENCH MINIATURES (French Solo Piano Music)
(1870-1958) Soirs: Ten Preludes (1890-96)
(1892-1974) Suite (1914)
(1867-1961) Nouvelles Sonatines Op. 87 No. 2 (1923-24)
(1890-1962) Petite Suite en Quinze Images (1943)
JOHN CLEGG (piano)
rec Potton Hall, Suffolk, England, 19-20 Feb 1998 PARADISUM PDS-CD11 [71.40]
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It is typical of John Clegg that he should venture out into uncharted waters rather than jostle with the crowds who frequent the familiar. Treat this collection as an exploration.

Florent Schmitt is, I am convinced, most unjustly neglected and my friend Claude Michel is setting about a comprehensive recording project (more than a 'dixaine' of CDs) featuring the complete music for solo, two and three pianos. In these softly outlined preludes the waters of originality are hardly ruffled - gently breathed on maybe - sometimes the music seems just a step across the brook from Macdowell's Woodland Sketches (none the worse for that either). In Parfum Exotique we are into readier territory for Schmitt and, though somewhat unrounded, this is an attractively memorable piece.

Koechlin was influenced by Jean Huré, Maurice Emmanuel and Paul Ladmirault. In the second of the four Nouvelles Sonatines he is less involved than usual. The music (in four brief movements; the longest just over two minutes) is impressionistic, rather like looking through a smoke-shadowed window into Ravel's Pavane. This carries into the Menuet but not into the straight-talking joyfulness of the Allegro; a movement which ultimately peters out rather than concludes. Milhaud was phenomenally productive and this suite is quite substantial, playing for circa 23 minutes - but it is also substantial in its serious approach to the music. The other works (the Koechlin less so) are essentially entertainment music. The suite is challenging - not too difficult to listen to - but still requiring concentration. Its first movement sounds uncannily like a predictive meditation on I Got Rhythm - well who knows, perhaps Gershwin got the theme from Milhaud! The Ibert is flowingly uncomplicated - the art that creates simplicity rather than complexity. If the music washes over us without leaving much behind the warm shower of melody is agreeable.

It says much for Paradisum and their attention to detail that production features are of high quality. They list the publishers of each of the pieces. Track timings are meticulously presented and design quality is consistently high. The notes are in English, French and German unlike the English-only Rawsthorne.

The insert notes are by Ian Stirling and tend to run to technical detail. A pleasant and stimulating collection played with effortlessly apt style and cleanly recorded.


Rob Barnett




Rob Barnett

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