George Enescu (1881-1955)
Piano Sonata in F sharp minor, Op.24, No.1 (1924)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Cyril Scott (1879-1970)
Five Poems (1912)
Cristian Sandrin (piano)
rec. 2021, Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK
Antartica Records AR043 
Cristian Sandrin explains the background to this group of recordings which has been given the French title of Correspondances. This is in the form of a ‘conversation between the music of Cyril Scott, George Enescu and Maurice Ravel.’ Ravel and Enescu had been contemporaries as pupils of Gabriel Fauré and many years later Enescu would give the premiere of Ravel’s Violin Sonata. Cyril Scott was a frequent visitor to Paris where he would meet Debussy, share a meal with him and then they would play to each other their latest works. In his own country he was often referred to, not very perceptively, as ‘the English Debussy’. What all three had in common was an admiration for the Symbolists. Scott produced an English translation of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs de Mal and Ravel and his associates Les Apaches were equally admiring of the works of Verlaine and Rimbaud.
Sandrin points out that another factor which binds together the music of all three composers in a musical language where the traditional dominance of tonal harmony has already come to be undermined. This programme offers the opportunity to compare the individual responses of each composer to the very potent intellectual stimuli which was so freely available, combined with the process of deconstruction of traditional harmonic language which was effectively begun by Wagner.
It is particularly pleasing to be given the opportunity to hear Enescu’s first Piano Sonata, which is still something of a rarity. Written in 1924 while the composer was struggling with the completion of his opera Oedipe. The first two movements come close in places to atonality, but the third is more grounded in traditional key centres. It is interesting to note that it more than bears comparison with Ravel’s Miroirs. Each movement is dedicated to one of Les Apaches and was premiered by Ricardo Viñes, also dedicatee. Having listened to the first two movements of the Enescu Sonata, one is struck by the stylistic common ground within the two works, where neither composer feels compelled to adhere to traditional tonal structures, yet the result is far from atonal.
The music of Cyril Scott is still somewhat neglected and misunderstood, partly because his interests were so diverse and included theosophy, poetry (he published a considerable amount before the First World War), the occult and the use of natural remedies for healing. Many thought that he dissipated his energies, but his compositional output was vast, with over 100 works for piano solo alone. Each of the Five Poems was intended to be played accompanied by readings from his verses, which are reproduced in the booklet, the idea being to give the listener a complete immersive experience. Judged on their purely musical merits, these pieces justify their inclusion in this programme, since they unequivocally belong to the same world as the works by Enescu and Ravel.
Cristian Sandrin is persuasive advocate for this music and succeeds in producing an almost endless variety of quiet timbres which this music needs. Yet, when required, the necessary power of expression is not lacking. He holds the listener’s attention throughout and deftly demonstrates why these three works belong together. A most satisfying recital.
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