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Rosenthal: Complete Works For Piano / Stephane Lemelin

Rosenthal / Lemelin,Stephane
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Atma Classique   Catalog #: 22587   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

M. ROSENTHAL Eight Bagatelles. Six Caprices. Serenade. Valse des pêcheurs à la ligne. Les petites métiers Stéphane Lemelin (pn) ATMA 22587 (61:48)

Aside from the short time he spent working with Vaughan Williams, Maurice Ravel coached only two students in composition. One was the young and gifted Manuel Rosenthal (1904–2003), whom the master warily took on after hearing the Eight Bagatelles (recorded here). That reason alone makes Rosenthal’s piano Read more output worth exploring. All his piano works were written during his late teens and 20s, after which his conducting career curtailed his compositional output, but also pushed it in the direction of orchestral music. He is best known for his arrangements of Offenbach: the ballet Gaîté Parisienne, and the operatic medley La Vie Parisienne, so memorably recorded by Jennie Tourel. A 1995 Marco Polo disc exists of some of Rosenthal’s original orchestral works, including an orchestral version of the piano suite Les petites métiers (literally, The Small Professions), replete with effects like muted trumpets and trombone glissandos. For all Rosenthal’s orchestral wizardry, I think the music sounds more individual here in black and white. The orchestral disc also contains another group of snappy character pieces, Sur la table , and several orchestral songs. Together these releases might suggest Rosenthal was a miniaturist, but he also wrote symphonies and an oratorio on the subject of St. Francis of Assisi that Messiaen admired. None of his larger works seem to have been recorded.

Rosenthal’s piano music utilizes the cheeky neoclassical style of Les Six but lacks Poulenc’s deliberate naivety or Milhaud’s edge. It sounds nothing like Ravel at all. The composer whose music it most resembles is Jacques Ibert: Rosenthal is similarly relaxed, amusing, and ultimately forgettable, like a smart cocktail party. The most substantial work here is the Serenade (1927), a piece in four movements incorporating a tender and affecting Nocturne in the form of a barcarolle, a sharply satirical Scherzo in waltz time, and a dazzling toccata Rondo. The Valse des pêcheurs à la ligne is pretty, and, like everything in this collection, idiomatically laid out for the keyboard.

Lemelin, a fluent Canadian pianist, displays total sympathy with the composer’s style, and the sound is warm and clear. This disc is part of a French series Lemelin is recording for ATMA entitled “Découvertes 1890–1939.” The series also covers music by Ropartz, Lekeu, Migot, Dupont, Dubois, Rhené-Bâton, Alder, Samazeuilh, and Vierne.

Daniel Blumenthal recorded the same Rosenthal program 20 years ago. I have not heard that disc but I doubt it would run rings around Lemelin’s recording, which is very good. Recommended to the sophisticated listener in a louche 1920s mood.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Valse des pêcheurs à la ligne by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927 
Sérénade for Piano by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927 
Les petits métiers by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933/1936; France 
Caprices (6) by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926 
Bagatelles (8) by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Stéphane Lemelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924 

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