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With this first volume of what promises to be a complete recording of Chaminade’s piano music, Mark Viner launches his enterprise in masterly style. Once known as the composer of ‘trifling trinkets’ accessible to the amateur pianist, Chaminade achieved immense popularity (in 1908 there were 200 Chaminade clubs in America) and was greatly admired by Queen Victoria. Sadly, health and financial issues (all her royalties from her Jewish publisher were liquidated by the Nazis) brought her career to an unhappy end. More positively, Viner’s programme reminds you that Chaminade was a more wide-ranging composer than is commonly supposed. Even when there is a suspicion that she gets carried away in talk when she had too little to say (even at four minutes, ‘Solitude’ from the Poèmes provençales is over-long) her charm and facility are undeniable.

Viner’s energy and commitment to his cause are superbly invigorating. Pier rette, his curtain-raiser, could hardly be given with a greater sense of the composer’s feisty attraction, and in the 6 Études de concert Op 35, where Chaminade is every inch the virtuoso, he makes light of the opening number’s double note cascades and the final Tarentelle’s whirling gyrations. Again, in ‘Automne’, he erases all possible tarnish in playing that is a model of musical strength. Saint-Saëns may have been Chaminade’s favourite composer but if Liszt’s Sturm und Drang shadow looms over ‘Pêcheurs de nuit’, lovers of the unapologetically emotional will fall for ‘Méditation’ from the 6 Romances sans paroles. Finally, the Thème varié, bright-eyed and flashing with virtuoso gestures, brings the programme to a grand close. Excellently recorded, and with Viner’s enthusiastic notes as an added bonus, Volume 2 is eagerly awaited.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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