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CD Review

Mélanie Bonis

Piano Quartets

  • Quartet for Piano & Strings #1 in B Flat Major, Op. 69
  • Quartet for Piano & Strings #2 in D Major, Op. 124
  • Soir matin for Piano Trio, Op. 76
Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431424-2 57m DDD
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This is a humdinger of a disc, not only for the music, which is a revelation, but also because of its historical value, which to my mind is quite immense. Mélanie Bonis (1858-1937) is a completely new voice on the scene. She was a French woman composer whose real name was Mélanie Domange née Bonis, but when composing, she used the pseudonym Mel Bonis in an attempt to gain more recognition.

During her lifetime, she received great praise from her renowned male colleagues such as Gounod and Saint-Saëns but long before her death, she was totally forgotten. Throughout her career, which is split in two phases, she wrote almost 300 pieces, mainly in the vocal and chamber genre, and her silent middle period is punctuated by a considerable number of difficult years as wife and mother.

Although her fame does not compare with those of Louise Farrenc or Nadia Boulanger, her music is as beautiful and charming as any others. The two Piano Quartets on this issue are a fine example of her harmonic invention and brilliant compositional technique, and the performances by the relatively young Mozart Piano Quartet manage to capture all the revelation and mysterious language that moved her soul.

The essay by Manfred Horn is a must read, and is one of the many outstanding aspects of this CD. Strongly recommended.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech