Notes and Editorial Reviews
Léo Nissim (pn)
ROMÉO 7275 (45:02)
Villa Paradisio. Pars les fenêtres du conservatoire. Matin d’été au Cap Ferrat. M. Louis. Brèves humeurs du ciel sur la terre. La plage de Long Island. Exil. Nostalgie d’une autre vie. La grande ville. Un souffle du passé. Quand vient l’Amour. Escale à Locronan. Bamako. Les petits chemins. Rachel et ses enfants
I don’t want to make any
extravagant claims for this CD, in terms of its musical significance, but this is one of the nicest surprises to come my way in some time. Nissim, whose parents came from Salonica, was born in Nice in 1956 and attended the conservatory in that city. Rather than embarking on a traditional career as a classical musician, however, his “thirst for musical opportunities brought him to jazz, rock, and African music over many years.” On television, he has accompanied Charles Aznavour and Charles Trenet, and there’s a long list of artists he has worked with in concert and on discs, although admittedly most of the names are far more familiar in France than they are in the United States. The brief note that accompanies this CD indicates that Nissim returned to piano and composition during a tour; the result is
The first piece sounds as if it were inspired by one of Chopin’s nocturnes.
Escale à Locronan
would not be out of place on a George Winston CD, and a few of the other pieces leave the same impression, albeit less strongly. (I like George Winston, although I know his music is a little too wispy for some who were weaned on the three Bs.) For the most part, however, the composer who came to mind most often as I heard this music was Federico Mompou, and I mean that as high praise indeed. By doing the math, you will discover that the average length of these 15 pieces is 180 seconds, and I think it is admirable that Nissim, like Mompou, knows when enough is enough. I don’t know if he intended these pieces as a cycle—I suspect not—but they work well together, and just like the individual pieces, the total length is just right, even if 45 minutes is rather short for a CD.
The writing is consistently tonal, and the style neo-Romantic, with subtle nods to jazz, New Age music, Impressionism, and African music. Nissim is a melodist first and a colorist second, but he is a good composer throughout, and one guesses that he paid attention to his teachers during his days at the conservatory. The playing is bright if perhaps a little over-pedaled, and I doubt anyone will leave this CD feeling anything less than cheerful. You can’t put a price on that.
The booklet contains 15 eponymous poems by the pianist/composer’s wife, Doe Nissim. These are given in French and in English translations, and they are as modest and charming as the music. (Apparently the poems were inspired by the music, and not the other way around.) There also are nice little illustrations by Claude Larosa.
Nissim’s music makes few demands on the listener, yet it doesn’t pander, and it fills at least this listener with admiration. Surely there’s still an audience for gentle, modest music like this!
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Villa Paradisio by Leo Nissim
Leo Nissim (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
M. Louis by Leo Nissim
Period: 20th Century
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