JEAN BARRAQUÉ (1928-1973): Piano Sonata (rev. version publ. 2019), Intermezzo, 2 morceaux, Thème et variations, Pièce, Retour, Mouvement Lent “Demeurez en mon amour”, Wagner; Tristan und Isolde: Prelude to Act III (Arr. J. Barraqué for Piano)(All First Recordings except Sonata [First Recording of New Definitive Edition]).

Catalogue Number: 04U047

Label: Winter & Winter

Reference: 910 257-2

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Whether or not Barraqué's sonata is "the greatest since the Hammerklavier", as has been hyperbolically claimed by various distinguished commentators, it is notable for being an extraordinarily successful hybrid of strict serial technique and Romantic expressiveness and drama - perhaps the only such in the piano literature. It is a powerful and compelling work, combining the formidable complexity of Boulez' or Stockhausen's piano works with the aesthetic aims of the late Romantics, and on an epic, Romantic scale. Substituting entirely different pitch, dynamic and textural relationships for the key and thematic oppositions of tonality-based sonatas, the work is densely contrapuntal, entirely atonal and pianistically formidable. The original edition was known to be riddled with errors, previous performers having prepared their own editions or in some cases relied on their contact with the composer; this is the first recording of a new definitive revised edition published this year. Sadly, the booklet notes are wholly inadequate, telling us nothing of the extent, nature or provenance of the revisions. The other pieces were written shortly before the sonata, though again not much is revealed about them - in fact we are told that the record company "tried to find ... each originator or copyright holder", so where these pieces, none of which has been recorded before (were they thought to be among the substantial body of earlier works that Barraqué destroyed?) came from; well, somebody knows, but not us. They were written during the time when Barraqué was studying with Messiaen, and most could be exercises in studying to write Messiaen études, with an eye to acquiring the technique to write the sonata. But Retour and Mouvement lent are a real surprise; absolutely gorgeous, richly Romantic poems for piano, from just two years earlier. Any pianist could - and should - program these lost gems in a standard, non-avant-garde recital. These and the exquisitely sensitive Wagner transcription - yes, you read that right, the 3rd Act Prelude from Tristan - give us a very concrete sense of where the composer’s Romantic impetus, paradoxically detectable throughout the fearsomely atonal sonata, came from. Jean-Pierre Collot (piano).

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