Anyone who has followed the development of the Grand Piano label will readily recognise the name of French composer Florent Schmitt (1870–1958). Recordings of his works for piano duet and duo have featured as regular additions to the catalogue, with Vol. 1 appearing in October 2012, one of the earliest entries in the Grand Piano discography. They are now available complete, in four volumes, all performed by the Invencia Piano Duo.
Schmitt has been labelled a product of German romanticism, French sensibilities, exotic locales, Russian experimentalism, and orientalisms. All of which adds up to an independent, creative force to be reckoned with; one who made authentically original contributions to twentieth-century music.
Schmitt’s Feuillets de voyage, Books 1 and 2 are early works, dating from 1903–1905, and acted as a musical travel diary for the composer. The works are featured on Volume 3 of the Grand Piano edition (“…Feuillets de voyage each contain five pieces … Invencia plays them with charm and panache.” American Record Guide). The composer went on to orchestrate the majority of them, though these versions remain unrecorded. You can now learn more about the background to these engaging pieces in a recently published article by Philip Nones, a noted blogger on Schmitt’s music, by following this link.
Grand Piano artist Zuzana Šimurdová has had a busy few months promoting the piano sonatas of the 20th-century Czech composer Luboš Fišer. Zuzana’s recording of his complete piano sonatas (GP770) was released in October last year, since when it has received sustained critical praise, both for her advocacy of these rarely performed works (“Šimurdová’s playing, like her liner notes, has the unmistakable conviction and persuasiveness of a true believer.” Fanfare) and for her performances (“The interpretation of Zuzana Šimurdová makes clear all the contrasts of this intense and vivid music in a masterful way.” Ritmo ).
The Czech-Canadian pianist has been introducing audiences in both Russia and Canada to Fišer’s distinctive keyboard works at CD release concerts and festivals. In April, Zuzana performed Fišer’s Fifth Sonata as part of the opening night programme of Moscow’s Spring in Russia festival, and again the following month in Edmonton, Canada.
Fišer wrote 8 piano sonatas (the second was lost), and Zuzana’s Grand Piano recording of all the extant works includes world premiere recordings of Sonatas Nos. 3, 4 and 7. You can view concert recordings of Sonatas Nos. 5 and 8 by following the links below. Canadians wanting to hear a live performance should take a note of Zuzana’s upcoming recitals, which will take place on 1 September in Edmonton’s Convocation Hall, and 27 October in Montreal.
Argentinian-American pianist Mirian Conti has built a career on the music of non-canonical composers. That’s not to say she’s ill-versed in the classics—far from it, in fact, as countless glowing reviews can attest. But even though Conti is equally at home in Chopin as she is in Halffter, she is first and foremost a champion of lesser-known pieces, both old and new.
Conti’s passion for new music found voice most recently in a recording of fellow Argentinian Lalo Schifrin’s complete works for solo piano. Continue reading
Grand Piano is delighted to report that Hayk Melikyan’s recording of the complete piano works of Alexander Arutiunian [GP718] has been recognised as Best Classical Album of the Year by Armenia’s Ministry of Culture.
Arutiunian, an accomplished pianist who was much admired by Shostakovich, created virtuoso piano works that are rooted in Armenian folk traditions while expressing, in the words of Hayk Melikyan, “a rich palette of emotions reflecting both his time and the history of his nation.”
“Strength and imagination are the hallmarks of this disc.” (MusicWeb International)
“This is an exemplary introduction to the music of Babadjanian.” (Fanfare)
Goran Filipec’s January, 2018 release of music for solo piano by the Croatian composer Blagoje Bersa (GP767) has received a Gramophone Editor’s Choice award in the magazine’s March issue. Jed Distler’s review is a recital in itself and well worth reading in full. In addition to the 1897 Second Sonata, which is the release’s most substantial work, the 11-item programme includes Bersa’s Fantaisie-Impromptu (“Liszt on steroids”), the melodically intriguing Po načinu starih (“pinches of mint in a vanilla pudding”) and Marcia trionfale (“a relentless invasion of octaves in all directions”).
“Although Bersa was the most influential Croatian composer at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century,” says Filipec, “his music stayed pretty much unknown to international audiences. Remarkable in his musical intentions, Bersa is a composer who will surely be appreciated by music lovers.”
Jed Distler has the final word in support: “I cannot recommend this release highly enough and, needless to say, I look forward to Vol 2.”