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Balbastre Musique de Salon
Prélude - La Monmartel ou Brunoy - La Bellaud - La Suzanne - La Morisseau - La Laporte - La De Caze - La Lamarck - La Berville - La Castelmore
La D’Hericourt - La Courteille - La Lugeac - La Genty - La Malesherbes -
La Berryer ou la Lamignon - La D’Esclignac - La Segur - La Boullogne

Mitzi Meyerson (fortepiano & harpsichord

Glossa GCD 921803 [2 CDs]

This important recording was brought to my attention after hearing a gifted young pupil of Mitzi Meyerson's playing very different pianos this month (LiChun Su in City of London and at Tudeley Festival).

Here is a compelling double CD of the music of Claude-Béninge Balbastre (1722-1799), a famous organist/composer who flourished in France prior to the Revolution; 'the leading keyboard teacher to the nobles and other elite'. His organ concertos have been lost, and his artistic life went into decline under the new regime. Impoverished in his last decade, he was forced to play his arrangement of Les Marseillaise, a version of which concludes Mitzi Meyerson's selection, on the deconsecrated organ of Notre-Dame...

The pieces here give a vivid picture of the music heard at the Salons, which were a focus for intelligent discource and new ideas; the illustration is of one such gathering being addressed by Voltaire.

Meyerson is a passionate scholar and performer; her interview about this project makes for absorbing reading. Balbastre had 'a persistent interest in the metamorphosis of keyboard instruments' [Phillipe Braussant] and this recording illustrates the road which led from harpsichord to the fast-developing fortepiano; he adopted the fortepiano and even owned a composite piano forte organisé.

Mitzi Meyerson, better known as a harpsichordist, was captivated by the Broadwood piano (London, 1792) heard here and tells us how her delight with its sonorities led to her making these recordings; she experienced "withdrawal pangs" when the instrument had to be returned to its owner, and subsequently bought another Broadwood which needed a year or more's restoration work to make it playable. Between times, she confesses, she returned to the modern grand piano for a time...

Unusually, in these discs Mitzi Meyerson alternates the two instruments, choosing the pieces carefully for their suitability for one or other; e.g. La Sultane needed harpsichord to build up the sonorities, but those with Alberti-bass demanded the piano, sounding 'too clattery' on the harpsichord.

For the listener, Meyerson's grouping and juxtapositions of the two instruments helps significantly in hearing the music to best advantage and maintaining concentration. A rewarding musical journey to share with her.

Presentation is lavish, with two well-filled booklets. Disappointingly drab b&w illustrations of the instruments etc; a let down after the Lemonnier cover picture which I reproduce above.

Warmly recommended, if you can find it...http://www.glossamusic.com/

Peter Grahame Woolf