Main gauche
Camille SAINT-SÄENS (1835-1921)
Etudes Op.135: Nos. 4-6[12:02]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prélude and Nocturne, Op.9 [8:34]
Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1951)
Epithalame, Op.65 No.3[5:11]
Pierre SANCAN (1916-2008)
Caprice romantique [5:23]
Jean DUBÉ (b.1981)
A smile like a sunshine[4:13]
Ferdinando BONIMICI (1827-1905)
Etude Op.273 No.3 [2:12]
Ossip GABRILOWITSCH (1878-1936)
Etude Op.12 No.2[4:01]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
A pesar de todo [3:01]
Armas MAASALO (1885-1960)
Au crépuscule (arr. Dubé) [3:00]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Romance (arr. Dubé)[3:46]
Géza ZICHY (1849-1924)
Viennese Pranks [3:04]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Der Erlkönig (arr. Zichy)[5:54]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Etude Op.92 No.11 [3:52]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
The Little Shepherd (arr. Dubé)[2:31]
Arthur FOOTE (1853-1937)
Romanze, Op.37 No.3 [4:15]
Felix BLUMENFELD (1863-1931)
Etude Op.36 [4:47]
Jean Dubé (piano)
rec. October 2011, Le Studio Acoustique, Passavant, France
BNL 112969 [75:38] 

Jean Dubé has here assembled a full hour-plus of piano music for the left hand. It’s no mean feat, especially because he set himself one mighty hurdle: nothing written for Paul Wittgenstein. The amputee and philosopher’s-brother commissioned a treasury of great left-hand music from the likes of Prokofiev, Ravel, Britten, Hindemith, Strauss, and Schmidt. Jean Dubé had to venture far off the beaten path to avoid Wittgenstein’s legacy, and unearth quite a lot of hidden gems. 

Some of the works here are fairly well-known, at least compared to the others. Some of Saint-Saëns’ etudes for the left hand appear, as do works by Scriabin and Moszkowski. There are arrangements of other famous works: Géza Zichy’s one-handed rewrite of Schubert’s ‘Erlkönig’ and Dubé’s own flawless arrangement of ‘The Little Shepherd,’ from Debussy’s Children’s Corner, make very satisfying appearances which reveal the imagination of the transcribers. Some of the most obscure items make delightful surprises. Ferdinando Bonimici somehow got all the way up to Op.273 without attracting any posthumous attention, not even a Wikipedia page, but the etude here sounds like a free transcription of Nat King Cole’s “Love”, which was written about a century later. Zichy’s Viennese Pranks live up to their promisingly amusing title. There are very romantic tunes from Arthur Foote, Pierre Sancan, Manuel Ponce and Jean Dubé himself, along with my single favourite left-hand solo piece: Felix Blumenfeld’s heavenly etude Op.36.
As for the playing, Dubé is hemmed in by a very small acoustic and close mike placement, making things a wee bit frustrating. The rare piece where an alternative recording is available does not always flatter Dubé: compared to James Rhodes, for instance, Dubé’s playing of the Blumenfeld etude is heavy, clunky, lacking in poetry, and laden with missed notes. Comparison of the Saint-Saëns to Piers Lane on Hyperion reveals less of a steady hand and less of a crystalline neo-baroque sound. So that’s not good. What is good is that the rarest works don’t sound obviously deficient, and Dubé’s enthusiasm matches his intrepid choices of music. Plus, he transcribed three of these works and composed one, and plays them all with obvious affection. So I am very glad to have heard Jean Dubé’s recital and admire his very good transcriptions and his impressively-constructed programme. I just kind of wish someone else had played it.
Brian Reinhart
Great transcriptions, great programme; I just wish someone else had played it.