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Pianos Quart de Ton
Ivan WYSCHNEGRADSKY (1893-1979)
4e Fragment symphonique pour ondes Martenot et 4 pianos, Op. 38c (1956) [15:57]
Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra pour 4 pianos, op. 17 (1930-1936) [26:02]
Méditation sur deux thèmes de La Journée de l'existence pour violoncelle et piano demi-ton, Op.7 (1918-1976) [7:33]
Alain MOËNE (b.1942)
De l’Ange pour 2 pianos (2015) [14:05]
Alain BANCQUART (b. 1934)
Racines pour 4 pianos (2014) [11:43]
Cécile Lartigau (ondes Martenot); Noé Natorp (cello)
Matthieu Acar, Hiroko Arimoto, Jean-François Ballèvre, Dominique Ciot, Cyrille Guion, Martine Joste, Manon Lonchamp, Emiri Wada, Li Xie, Guanlan Xu, Yoko Yamada (pianos)
Léo Margue (direction)
rec. 2016, Auditorium Marcel Landowski, Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris
SHIIIN 10 [75:25]

Ivan Wyschnegradsky's highly personal compositional stance was a lifelong dedication. He was the father of microtonal composition and an inspiring muse to later generations of composers. Although born in St Petersburg, he lived most of his life in Paris. He left Russia ostensibly in pursuit of a piano builder who could construct a quartertone instrument for him. His ambition was fulfilled in 1929 by the German firm Förster. A man of principle and determination, he doggedly sought a hearing for his music despite opposition from some quarters and never, for a single moment, compromised his beliefs.

4e Fragment symphonique Op. 38c is scored for four pianos, tuned two by two a quartertone apart, and ondes Martenot, which assumes a solo role, weaving a radiant and intricate web around and reinforcing the piano's contours.  The work dates from 1956 and explores the four instruments’ entire range.  The ondes Martenot produces an array of colourful sonorities, ranging from a diaphanous glow to a sound very similar to a cello. Much of the time it hovers like some disembodied spirit.

Since his youth, the composer had been drawn to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. This inspiration can be found in some of his early songs. Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra pour 4 pianos, Op. 17 was begun in 1929, and completed a year later. It was written in response to taking delivery of his quartertone study piano. He revised the composition in 1936. He specifies a conductor in performance to direct proceedings with regard to legato and dynamics. There are four movements, three of which are animated. The Lento third movement provides an element of serene contrast.

The earliest work here from 1918-19 is Méditation sur deux thèmes de La Journée de l'existence pour violoncelle et piano demi-ton, Op.7. The original work La Journée de l'existence, from which it takes its lead, was written two years earlier. Wychnegradsky makes use of a cello and single piano for this piece which "traces the progress leading to cosmic awareness".

This release also features two composers who sought inspiration from Wyschnegradsky. Each has provided a work to supplement the performances of the older composer's music. Alain Moëne's work translates as From Angel and requires two pianos tuned a quartertone apart. This increases the scope of the instruments and facilitates the utilization of the whole sound range. Also, particular timbres can be achieved. The work is dedicated to Martine Joste, who is one of the two pianists. 

Alain Bancquart’s Racines, which means Roots, calls for four pianos. The composition is based on two voices, each entrusted to two pianos. The instruments are tuned in quartertones. Each voice functions independently. The first is described as "flexible and nervous”, whilst the second is "dolce sempre legato". The work gets its title Roots from the low registrations employed at the start. Again, Martine Joste is the dedicatee.

I was pleased to receive this disc for review, as a couple of years ago I purchased a complete concert performance of Wyschnegradsky’s La Journée de l'existence, taped in May 1978, and also issued on the Shiiin label. It certainly whet my appetite for this composer’s music, which is challenging, but deeply rewarding.

I must applaud Shiiin on their high production values. The music is recorded in first-class sound, and the booklet notes are exemplary.

Stephen Greenbank


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