Alexandre Tansman – Music for Violin and Piano

I have to admit I was not familiar with the music of Alexandre Tansman before receiving this disc to review. But after listening to it, and reading about him, I definitely want to hear more.

Alexandre Tansman was born in Poland and always maintained he was a Polish composer, though he spent virtually all of his life in France. During the Second World War, he emigrated to Hollywood (his score to “Paris Underground” was nominated for an Oscar in 1946). After the war he returned to France and continued to compose, though like many pre-war artists, Tansman’s music was considered out of date.

This release presents a chronological survey of Tansman’s music for violin and piano, beginning with his 1918 Romance and ending with his Fantaisie from 1963. The Romance is sweetly sentimental with Ravel-like harmonies. His Sonata No. 2, written around the same time is a more substantial work, though written in a similar post-romantic language as the Romance.

The Sonata quasi una fantasia (1924) and Sonatine No. 1 (1925) represent further development of Tansman’s harmonic language, which owes much to Debussy and Ravel (although Tansman’s jazz passages are more convincing than Ravel’s). Tansman was invited to become a member of Les Six, but declined. To my ears, it sounds like he joined them in spirit, if not officially.

In the 1963 Fantasie, Tansman experiments with atonality without fully stepping over the line. While musicians of the 1960’s may have considered this old-fashioned, taken on its own merits I found the Fantasie to be an engaging and enjoyable work.

Violinist Klaidi Sahatçi and pianist Giorgio Koukl play these works with great sensitivity. Their expressiveness helps this music come alive. If you’re a fan of French music of the 1920’s, then Tansman’s music will fit right into your collection.

Alexandre Tansman: Music for Violin and Piano
Klaidi Sahatçi, violin; Giorgio Koukl, piano
Naxos 8.573127

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