Duo PROSSEDA -AMMARA -French women composers for four hands from Palazetto Bru Zane in Venice


Fascinating …Music of French female composers unknown to me but then Roberto Prosseda and Alessandra Ammara are always full of inspired new discoveries from the vaults of forgotten archives.Roberto had found Mendelssohn’s 3rd Piano concerto in manuscript,had it pieced together by M°Buffalini and recorded it with Mendelssohns Leipzig Gewandhaus under Chailly.He recently brought Gounod’s Concerto for pedal piano to London with the London Philharmonic under Oleg Caetani…….. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/roberto-prosseda-and-oleg-caetani-with-the-london-philharmonic-in-london/. unstoppable and insatiable …….

A refreshing new discovery in duo with his wife and mother of their three beautiful children!For the French Academy in the beautiful Bru Zane Palace in Venice .Some superb playing as one -what more can one say.Such sensitive playing by two musicians listening so intently to the music with a sense of balance and ensemble that was remarkable as it was ravishing.

All works that had me running to the encyclopaedia after having heard such a collection of short but sometimes ravishing pieces that have been much neglected by the established piano duos .A careful selection from this collection of some thirty short pieces could indeed be a great addition to a repertoire that has become overloaded with the more predictable master works of Schubert,Schumann,Mozart,Debussy,Bizet and Poulenc.The pieces by Chaminade in particular were to be appreciated for the charming salon pieces that they are.The first played with such a superb sense of balance that allowed for a kaleidoscope of subtle sounds.The delicacy and luminous playful melodic line of the second.The sumptuous melodic line on a wash of delicate sounds in the third or the almost Indian dance of the fourth played with great rhythmic impulse with mighty bass gong notes to set the ball rolling.The final piece a touching lullaby played with a simplicity and charming immediacy .Mel Bonis outlines her first collection as four hands of which two are very easy.The two collections are well worth discovering although not quite as convincing as those of Chaminade .The pieces by Marie Jaell a student of Liszt are well worth a voyage of discovery.Hats off to Roberto and Alessandra showing us yet again that there is still so much music to discover in the archives.

Cécile Chaminade was born in Paris,she studied at first with her mother, then with Le Couppey on piano.Savard and Marsick on violin and Godard for composition, but not officially, since her father disapproved of her musical education.Her first experiments in composition took place in very early days, and in her eighth year she played some of her music to Bizet,who was much impressed with her talents. She gave her first concert when she was eighteen, and from that time on her work as a composer gained steadily in favor. She wrote mostly character pieces for piano, and salon songs, almost all of which were published.She toured France several times in those earlier days, and in 1892 made her debut in England where her work was extremely popular.Isidor Philipp,head of the piano department of the Paris Conservatory championed her works. She repeatedly returned to England during the 1890s and made premieres there with singers such as Blanche Marchesi and Pol Plancon, though this activity decreased after 1899 due to bad critical reviews.

Mélanie Hélène Bonis, known as Mel Bonis (21 January 1858 – 18 March 1937), was a prolific French late-Romantic composer. She wrote more than 300 pieces, including works for piano solo and four hands, organ pieces, chamber music, mélodies, choral music, a mass, and works for orchestra. She attended the Paris Conservatoire where her teachers included Cesar Franck,Ernest Guiraud and Auguste Bazille.Bonis was born to a Parisian lower-middle-class family and was educated according to the strict norms of the Catholic morality of the time. Of great talent and musical sensitivity, she taught herself the piano. Initially her parents did not encourage her music, but when she was twelve, they were persuaded by a professor at the Conservatoire to allow her to receive formal music lessons.At the age of sixteen, she began her studies at the Conservatoire, and attended classes in accompaniment, harmony and composition, where she shared the benches with Debussy ,Pierné , and others.Due to the difficulties encountered by women who wished to compose, she adopted the more androgynous form of her first name, “Mel”At the Conservatoire, she met and fell in love with Amédée Landély Hettich, a student, poet and singer, setting some of his poems to music. Unfortunately, her parents disapproved of the match and, in 1883, arranged for her to marry the businessman Albert Domange, who was 25 years her senior, and a widower with five children from two previous marriages. After that, she disappeared into domesticity and had three children. For Bonis it was not an ideal marriage because Domange did not like music.[3] In the 1890s, she met Hettich again, who encouraged her to return to composition, after which her career took off. She also began an affair with Hettich, which led to the birth of an illegitimate child, Madeleine. The child was put into the care of a former chambermaid, whilst Bonis devoted all her energies to composition, becoming a member of the Société des compositeurs de musique and a published composer with Editions Leduc.

Marie Jaëll (née Trautmann) (17 August 1846 – 4 February 1925) was composed pieces for piano, concertos, quartets, and others,She was the first pianist to perform all the piano sonatas of Beethoven in Paris.She did scientific studies of hand techniques in piano playing and attempted to replace traditional drilling with systematic piano methods.Her students included Albert Schweitzer,who studied with her while also studying organ with Widor in 1898-99. She died in Paris.Her father was the mayor of Steinseltz in Alsace, and her mother was a lover of the arts and became her manager She began piano studies at the age of six with F.B. Hamma and Ignaz Moscheles in Stuttgart and a year after she already gave concerts in Germany and Switzerland.In 1856, the ten-year-old Marie was introduced to the piano teacher Heinrich Herz at the Paris CobservatoireParis. After just four months as an official student at the Conservatory, she won the First Prize of Piano. Her performances were recognized by the public and local newspapers; the Revue te gazette musicale printed a review on July 27, 1862 that reads: “She marked it [the piece] with the seal of her individual nature. Her higher mechanism, her beautiful style, her play deliciously moderate, with an irreproachable purity, an exquisite taste, a lofty elegance, constantly filled the audience with wonder.”On August 9, 1866, at twenty years of age, Marie married the Austrian concert pianist, Alfred Jaëll. She was then known variously as Marie Trautmann, Marie Jaëll, Marie Jaëll Trautmann or Marie Trautmann Jaëll. Alfred was fifteen years older than Marie and had been a student of Chopin. The husband and wife team performed popular pieces, duos, solos, and compositions of their own throughout Europe and Russia. As a pianist, Marie specialized in the music of Schumann,Liszt and Beethoven.They transcribed Beethoven’s “Marcia alla Turca Athens Ruins” for piano; the score was successfully published in 1872.Alfred was able to use his success and fame to help Marie meet with various composers and performers throughout their travels. In 1868, Marie met the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. A record of Liszt’s comments about Marie survives in an article published in the American Record Guide: “[Marie Jaëll] has the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist.” Liszt introduced Marie to other great composers and performers of the day—for example, Brahms and Anton Rubinstein.By 1871, Marie’s compositions began to be published.With the death of her husband in 1881, Marie had the opportunity to study with Liszt in Weimar. She also had piano and composition lessons with Franck and Saint- Saens, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 1 and the “Étude en forme de valse” to her.Saint-Saëns thought highly enough of Marie to introduce her to the Society of Music Composers—a great honor for women in those days.She was well respected, both as a performer and a composer, by her contemporaries. Lea Schmidt-Roger states “Four-handed literature was as much a part of Jaëll’s repertory as solo literature. She concertized with duo piano and four-handed pieces from the age of fourteen, and later she and husband Alfred transcribed and performed much of the contemporary four-handed literature.”After struggling with tendonitist, Jaëll began to study neuroscience. The strain on her playing and performing led her to research physiology. Jaëll studied a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the functioning of the body,and also ventured into psychology: “She wanted to combine the emotional and spiritual act of creating beautiful music with the physiological aspects of tactile, additive, and visual sensory.”Dr. Charles Féré assisted Jaëll in her research of physiology. Her studies included how music affects the connection between mind and body, as well as how to apply this knowledge to intelligence and sensitivity in teaching music. Liszt’s music had such a tremendous influence on Jaëll that she sought to gain as much insight into his methods and techniques as possible.

This research and study led to Jaëll creating her own teaching method based on her findings.Jaëll’s teaching method was known as the ‘Jaëll Method’. Her method was created through a process of trial and error with herself and her students. Jaëll’s goal was for her students to feel a deep connection to the piano. An eleven book series on piano technique resulted from her research and experience. Piano pedagogues have since drawn insight into teaching techniques of the hand from her method and books. In fact, her method is still in use today.As a result of her studies, Jaëll was able to compile her extensive research into a technique book entitled L’intelligence et le rythme dans les mouvements artistiques. This text is used by pianists and piano pedagogues as a reference, specifically with hand position and playing techniques.

A fascinating look into the archives which I simply reproduce here that may stimulate the imagination for piano duos looking for some new interesting pieces to add to their repertoire .The Duo PROSSEDA- AMMARA – I had heard in the Piano Barga Festival a few years ago and is obviously establishing itself as an ensemble that is going from strength to strength.https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/piano-barga-the-jewel-in-the-crown-parts-onetwo-and-final-three/


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