Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) was born in Poland but spent most of his musical life in Paris, always referred to himself as ‘un compositeur polonais’ despite becoming a French citizen in 1938. His Transatlantic Sonatina was the result of a 1927 trip to the US, where he discovered jazz. The opening Foxtrot mixes up Joplin and Gershwin, before an exquisite ‘Spiritual and Blues’ and finally a swinging Charleston.
Tansman was a marvellous tune-smith with a Polish heritage but a French accent gained from his move to Paris in 1919. There he absorbed elements of cabaret, music-hall, café, jazz and fashionable dances, blurring boundaries between artistic and popular music. The Trois préludes en forme de blues pick up the stylistic theme hinted at in the middle movement of the sonata. Le tour du monde en miniature (1933) affirms Tansman’s status as among the most cosmopolitan composers of the 20th century: a whirlwind 15-movement suite that sets out among the coconut groves of California and ends up dancing a tarantella in Naples, having stopped off in far-eastern jungles and temples along the way.
Maria Argentiero ends her uniquely compiled survey of Tansman’s piano music with a world premiere recording of the Esquisses javanaises (1945) – a set of three tone-pictures for the piano which returns to the central panels of the Tour de monde and their potent evocations of eastern culture from a western perspective.
Born in 1985, the Italian pianist Maria Argentiero gained an enthusiastic online following during lockdown with her streamed performances of repertoire from Haydn to Satie, Kapustin and beyond. She teaches in Pisa and specialises as a performer in quirkier voices from the past century such as Tansman. The booklet features a thorough profile of the composer and his piano music, plus an interview between Maria Argentiero and Marianne Tansman, the composer’s daughter, who recalls him as a ‘very loving but very anxious’ father.
Alexander Tansman (1897-1986)was born in Lodz, Poland, into a wealthy Jewish family of great culture. He spoke 5 languages and studied law and philosophy. His early compositions show experiments with atonality and 12-tone music. In 1919 he left Poland for Paris, where he settled permanently. Tansman: ““I spent the first twenty years of my life in Poland. In regard to the importance of Slavic influence in my music, I can readily say that I followed the same path as Bartók or Manuel de Falla: folklore imaginé. I did not use popular themes per se. I used, however, their general melodic contour. This folklore remained strongly present in my musical sensitivity.”
One could say that Tansman had a similar approach to writing music as Chopin – namely to use folklore as source material to be transformed by his imagination, without actual quoting. In a similar vein he used the different traditions he encountered when travelling round the globe, no matter whether it was jazz, gamelan or Japanese music.
This new recording presents a selection of piano music by Tansman: the jazzy Sonatine Transatlantique, Trois Préludes en forme de blues, and the cycle La Tour du monde en miniature, delightful and vibrant musical depictions of places from all over the world.
Maria Argentiero studied with renowned pianists including Lonquich, Baldocci, Braconi, Risaliti, Marvulli, Prosseda and, for chamber music, with Bruno Canino.
The booklet contains extensive liner notes and an interview by the artist with Marianne Tansman, daughter of the composer.