Vincent d’Indy is remembered less for his own music than his conservative control and influence over French musical life in the last decades of the 19th century. Yet this massive Piano Sonata, published in 1907, demands the technique of a virtuoso performer, and rewards close attention no less than better-known examples such as the no less ambitious works from the same time by Dukas and Lekeu (both of them also available on Piano Classics). The first movement unfolds as a huge and chromatic set of theme and variations, in which d’Indy’s avowed Wagnerism continually blurs tonal boundaries and erupts into distant keys.
Even larger – almost 20 minutes in length – is the finale, which seems to pick up where the eventful narrative of the first movement left off, presenting a theme which, if not modernist in its development, embraces distant realms with hardly less enthusiasm than the contemporary music of Scriabin. It is left to the central Scherzo to afford some brief and light relief, but even here the angular features of the outer movements recur.
Any seeker of piano rarities and enthusiast for the likes of Alkan and Medtner will want to make the acquaintance of D’Indy’s Piano Sonata, especially in a performance as accomplished as this recording by the young Italian pianist Sofia Andreoli. Her pairing for D’Indy’s Sonata is hardly less original: the set of Promenades composed by Albéric Magnard in 1893.
Magnard was 28 at the time, yet this suite of tone-pictures is hardly ‘youthful’ in tone. Rather, it too belongs to the heady world of French Wagnerism, exploratory and reflective in tone even as its composer wanders the streets of Paris, past the Bois de Boulogne, the Eglise Saint-Germain and the Trianon, before finding its destination in the forest of Rambouillet on the southern edge of the city. There, glinting half-lights and arboreal silence take the listener back to a space of tranquillity, inviting discovery by any adventurous explorer of the late-Romantic piano.
- Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931), a prominent French composer, wrote his only Piano Sonata in 1907. This rich and substantial sonata shows d'Indy's meticulous craftsmanship and innovative harmonic language. The work unfolds with a sense of architectural integrity, marked by its four movements, each possessing distinctive character and emotion.
- Rooted in late-Romantic language, the sonata bears traces of his fascination with folk music and modal scales. The first movement, marked by its assertive motifs, leads into a lyrical and introspective second movement. The third movement introduces rhythmic vitality and dance-like elements, while the final movement builds to a triumphant conclusion. D'Indy's harmonic complexity, coupled with a mastery of form, renders the Sonata a significant contribution to the piano repertoire. It stands as a testament to d'Indy's artistic value, blending tradition with innovation.
- Albéric Magnard (1865-1914) was a pupil of Massenet, Dubois and, above all, Vincent d'Indy himself, to whom he was deeply attached throughout his life. His seven Promenades Op.7, composed in 1893 as a kind of intimate diary describing 6 French towns, are evocative and charming character pieces, with hints of Franck and Debussy.
- Sofia Andreoli is a young Italian pianist with a passion for discovering neglected composers. As a student of Mattia Ometto, she builds a busy solo career, as well as playing chamber music in different formations.