Mengyiuyi Chen Performs Mel Bonis with Subtlety

Mélanie Bonis was a talented pianist and composer. At age 16 she attended the Paris Conservatory. While there, she studied with César Franck. She attended classes with  Gabriel Pierné and Claude Debussy. 

It’s significant that Debussy was her classmate. I’d describe Bonis’ music as Debussy-adjacent. Much of it has the Impressionist aesthetic. 

Harmonies are sometimes vague and don’t suggest motion to a climax. Her melodies aren’t foursquare, but flowing. Phrases are as long — or as short — as they need to be. 

The selections in this release span Bonis’ career. Bonis published her Mazurka, Op. 26 when she was in her late 20s. Her Transcription of Faure’s “Claire de Lune” was done in 1933, four years before her death. 

There’s a remarkable consistency to Bonis’ style across the decades. Over time the influence of Impressionism faded only slightly. And her work is consistent in its quality. 

Pianist Mengyiuyi Chen performs admirably. Bonis requires a certain degree of subtlety, and Chen has it. Phrasing is often nuanced rather than fully articulated. Her use of the pedal is strategic and effective. 

Bonis wrote about 150 works for solo piano. There’s a lot to choose from for volume two! 

Mel Bonis: Complete Music for Solo Piano, Volume One
Mengyiuyi Chen, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC 0361

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