AUGUSTE DESCARRIES (1896-1958): Au gré de l’onde, Aveu, Nostalgie, Mauresque, Rhapsodie canadienne, Serenitas, Étude in G, Pensées d’un soir de pluie, Danse, Souvenir, Andante, Mon beau rêve, Pièce, Élégie.

Catalogue Number: 07Y039

Label: Leaf Music

Reference: LM250

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: Gorgeous Romanticism from a composer-pianist and teacher, highly regarded during his lifetime but uninterested in following fashion and consequently immediately considered unfashionable, and falling into neglect, upon his untimely death in 1958. His models include the Debussy of the préludes the less extreme of Scriabin's adventurous harmonies, and Grieg, as well as the Russians with whom he hob-nobbed (and in some cases, studied) in Paris in the 1920s, including Catoire, Medtner, the frères Conus, Ziloti, and Rachmaninov, whose styles certainly seem to have rubbed off on him, given his predilection for unexpected but logical harmonies and full-blooded romantic pianistic expression. He was a gifted improviser, and while these compositions are all meticulously notated they have a certain freedom of form, and a fondness for elaborate ornamentation which lend them a sense of spontaneity. He composed a sizeable body of music in a variety of forms and for various forces, but these works are mostly sophisticated and exquisitely crafted miniatures, left in manuscript at the composer’s death and edited for performance by Ms David. The early Étude is rather Brahmsian, as is the Pensées, several years earlier still, while the slightly later Serenitas is very Scriabinesque. His style remained consistent, and even Nostalgie, of 1954, still shows the influence of Chopin. Mauresque, with its highly decorated, melismatic melody line, drone-like accompaniment in open fifths and parallel harmonies simultaneously suggests an evocation of a troubadour song and a Debussyan miniature. A number of short, undated and early pieces are included, all very Romantic in style and full of charm and delightful invention, including the sparkling Danse-caprice, playful Pièce, and scintillating Étude. The ebullient, bravura Rhapsodie canadienne stands somewhat apart from the other works here. Originally composed in 1927 and revised in 1933 as a concertante piece with which the composer-pianist had considerable success between 1936 and 1957, it was resurrected by the present pianist in 2017. Her inspired transcription, in collaboration with Jean Saulnier, followed soon after. The engaging and exciting piece comprises inventive free variations on two French folksongs, popular in France and Canada, clearly written as a vehicle for Descarries' own formidable virtuosic powers, with interesting parallels to Rachmaninov's treatment of his themes in his (slightly later!) variation sets. The Élegie is actually the central movement of Descarries' 1953 Sonata. It was performed separately during the composer’s lifetime, and stands up well on its own as a lovely, lyrical piece in three-part "song form" with the third section an abbreviated version of the first, with a large appassionato section omitted, and different ornamentation. (The outer movements are a large bravura movement and a virtuosic toccata, more in line with the pianistic pyrotechnics conjured by Descarries in the Rhapsodie canadienne than with most of the works here.) Isabelle David (piano).


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