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Mel Bonis: La Cathedrale Blessee / Veerle Peeters

Bonis / Peeters
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 1422   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle PeetersJan Vermeulen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BONIS Piano Works Veerle Peeters, Jan Vermeulen 1 (pn) ET’CETERA KTC 1422 (71:22)


Barcarolle. La Cathédrale blessée. Il Pleut. Romance sans paroles. Ballade. Eglogue. Concert Etude. Echo. Narcisse. Marionnettes. Prelude. 1 Le Songe de Read more Cléopâtre. Mélisande. Desdémona. Salomé. Ophélie. Dolorosa. Impromptu. Cloches lointaines


Mélanie Bonis (1858–1937), a Franck protégée who wrote under the androgynous name Mel Bonis, has been largely forgotten. But if you know anything about her—for instance, if you’ve read Laura Rónai’s excellent review of her flute music ( Fanfare 32:3, also Want Listed in 32:2)—you may have some idea of the psychologically draining life she led: separation from her beloved; forced marriage to a much older man, with whom she had three children; a renewed affair with her initial lover, resulting in the secret birth of a daughter, Madeleine, who was placed in foster care; and, in a truly soap-opera twist, the crisis that resulted when her son and Madeleine, unaware of their relationship, fell in love and decided to marry. Fertile ground for musical inspiration? Perhaps. Veerle Peeters’s notes suggest that her most productive period came in the wake of the torment and depression following Madeleine’s birth—and that may well be so. But in the context of the music by such contemporaries as Medtner and Bax, whose lives were similarly (if not quite so melodramatically) distressed, Bonis’s responses to the crises she lived through seem, if not quite pale, then certainly muted. Even the Dies irae references in Cathédrale blessée —a somewhat stony gloss on Debussy’s Cathédrale engloutie , apparently written in response to the bombing of Rheims Cathedral—lack the edge of terror we get when Berlioz, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, or Ysaÿe used the motif; in places, in fact, they’re nearly consolatory.


But while Bonis’s music may be muted, it’s of a rare quality nonetheless. Granted, on the basis of what we hear here (and the works appear to represent a fairly broad span of her output), Bonis was not an especially forward-thinking composer. She breathed the same air as Fauré (evident, for instance, in the flow and the sweet harmonic turns of her gorgeous Barcarolle), Debussy (the playful toccata writing in Il Pleut ), Ravel (the tolling of Le Gibet is evident behind the opening of Cléopâtre , for piano four-hands), and Granados (some of the melodic curls later on in Cléopâtre ); but she was more likely to look back to Schumann (say, in the evocative Romance sans paroles ) than she was to take inspiration from Stravinsky or Schoenberg. Still, she had an excellent command of her centrist idiom, a refined sense of the capabilities of the piano, and a subtle imagination. This collection is especially canny in offering a series of new musical perspectives on familiar female literary characters. The combination of the sunny and the pensive in her Mélisande , the poignant way the Willow Song is interrupted by a brief memory of better times in Desdémona , the mercurial spirit reflected in the dizzying metrical shifts in Salomé : Listening to this CD, it’s hard to understand how Bonis’s music has remained buried for so long, especially during a time when so much energy has been devoted to recovery of music by forgotten women composers.


Peeters plays with conviction; she may sometimes compress dynamics, but she has a solid technique and, more important, an excellent sense of the music’s rhythmic flow and textural luminosity. And while more detailed notes would be welcome (dates of composition would be especially useful), the production is otherwise fine. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

1.
Barcarolle for piano in E flat major, Op. 71 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 4 Minutes 52 Secs. 
2.
La cathédrale blessée, for piano by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 6 Minutes 51 Secs. 
3.
Il pleut! for piano by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
4.
Romance sans paroles, for piano by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 15 Secs. 
5.
Ballade for piano by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 7 Minutes 39 Secs. 
6.
Ecologue, for piano, Op. 12 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
7.
Etude de concert, for piano, Op. 136 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
8.
Echo, for piano, Op. 89 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs. 
9.
Narcisse, for piano, Op. 90 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
10.
Marionnettes, for piano, Op. 42 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
11.
Prélude, for piano, Op. 51 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
12.
Le Songe de Cléopâtre, for 2 pianos, Op. 180/1 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Jan Vermeulen (Piano), Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 7 Minutes 25 Secs. 
13.
Mélisande, for piano, Op. 34 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1898 
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 18 Secs. 
14.
Desdémona, for piano, Op. 101 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 32 Secs. 
15.
Salomé, for piano, Op. 100 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 4 Minutes 15 Secs. 
16.
Ophélie, for piano, Op. 165 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 5 Minutes 16 Secs. 
17.
Dolorosa, for piano, Op. 138 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
18.
Impromptu, for piano, Op. 1 by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
19.
Cloches Iointaines, for piano by Mélanie Bonis
Performer:  Veerle Peeters (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2010 
Venue:  Willebringen (Belgium) 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 

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