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Louise Farrenc: Etudes & Variations / Joanne Polk

Release Date: 02/07/2020
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30133
Composer:  Louise Farrenc ,  Jeanne-Louise Farrenc Performer:  Joanne Polk Number of Discs: 1

French pianist and composer Louise Farrenc commanded an important presence in the musical life of 19th century France. Joanne Polk’s newest album on the Steinway & Sons label includes selections from Farrenc’s Op. 26 collection of etudes and 3 sets of variations.

R E V I E W:

Here’s another winner of a recording from Steinway and Sons. As we have learned to expect, the recorded sound is superb.

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875), especially for someone who today merits not even the proverbial asterisk in most music guidebooks, had an amazing career. Judging from this release, Farrenc’s music is firmly in the mid-19th-century Romantic virtuoso-piano tradition of Liszt and Chopin, even to the extent of
Read more including crowd-pleasing paraphrases of (or, variations upon) opera themes or arias by Bellini (Norma) and Meyerbeer (Les Huguenots).

All of which pianist Joanne Polk presents with facility, fluidity, dispatch, and élan. To get a French word in there. (And also, with joie de vivre.) The Les Huguenots piece is a corker: Imagine if Franz Liszt had gone to town on Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” (Oops; perhaps Liszt actually did that. Dunno. Long ago, I decided that FL was, for the most part, not my cup of tea; so I might have a bit of a blind spot there.)

Ferranc studied theory and composition with Anton Reicha, one of Berlioz’ teachers. She became the first female professor of piano the Paris Conservatory in 1842. Her Thirty Etudes were adopted as required repertory for piano students there in 1845. Her published compositional output included chamber music as well as three symphonies, all of which were performed...

The first three tracks are variations; the first upon a Russian song; the second upon the famous aria from Bellini’s Norma; and the third from Meyerbeer’s fantastically successful opera Les Huguenots (the first opera ever to have been presented 1,000 times at the Paris Opéra). What follows the variation pieces on the CD is a selection from Farrenc’s two volumes encompassing 30 études.

Most highly recommended, especially for piano mavens or for piano students.

-- John Marks, The Tannhäuser Gate Read less