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Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Children at play* [17:20]
Recréations – 6 pieces for piano* [10:54]
Piano in progress Volume 1* [27:20], Volume 2* [14:03]
Easy pieces for piano* [16:31]
Elzbieta Tyszecka (piano)
rec. Henryk Czyza Kameralna Hall, Filharmonia Lódzka, Lódz, Poland, July 2012.
* World Première Recordings
ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0270 [77:29]


 
I opened a previous review of two CDs of the piano music of Aleksander Tansman (AP0246 and AP0255) thus: “I always get a frisson of excitement at the prospect of hearing world première recordings so I looked forward with relish to reviewing these discs of music by Tansman for children to play”. I enjoyed reviewing those discs so much that I quickly put my name down to review this one of more music for children to play and again it is of world première recordings so the frisson continues unabated.
 
If there are any listeners who prejudge these pieces as likely to be too simplistic and therefore of little interest then they are making a big mistake for they are so overwhelmingly charming that they cannot fail to please. However, there is a lot more to them than that for they are imbued with such a deep feeling of humanity and reverence for children that they reveal a man who must have been a delight to know.
 
These pieces, all of them tiny miniatures (48 in all), show a composer who could reflect any mood or style with consummate ease; countries such as Hungary (in Hungarian Mood) are perfectly evoked, if it is a dance then it is truly danceable (as in Valse, Tango), if it has an American reference (as in Blues, Fox-trot and Spleen) then it is as faithful an evocation of Americana as can be found anywhere, while any references back to the Baroque era (like In modo Bachico, Gigue and Fughetta) are highly convincing. Tansman spent many years in France but wrote that “Certainly I owe a lot to France, but no one who has ever heard my pieces can doubt that I always was, am, and will be a Polish composer” a statement proved over and over again when he is not making other specific references. His main impetus to compose these works was as a counter to the dull as ditchwater exercises that children were usually called upon to use as practise. I cannot imagine that any aspiring pianist would not be thrilled to have these to learn and can imagine the pride they would exude on being able to reproduce them for family and friends, proving that their lessons were well worth having.
 
These pieces are enjoyable in their own right and would work as well in the concert hall as part of a wider programme and would sparkle as encores, just as they do here on disc. The booklet explains the background to each set, gives a good potted biography of the composer and includes two lovely photos of his daughters Mireille and Marianne who surely must have performed these pieces.
 
The works are very well recorded in clear, crisp sound and Elzbieta Tyszecka who was also the pianist on the above mentioned discs is a marvellous advocate for these wonderfully charming and satisfying works. She clearly sees the value of bringing them to the deserved attention of a wider audience as does Acte Préalable which is carrying out sterling service in promoting Polish music and musicians. But for them we might never get to hear such repertoire which would be a very sad state of affairs so raise a cheer for all concerned.
 
Steve Arloff
 

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