Scarlatti-Rameau-Chopin – Rosalind Bieber – CB6020
£9.99 – £23.99
This recording is the rediscovery of a great artist, a great musician and a unique creative mind. For this recording, Rosalind Bieber has come out of retirement as a musician and with great physical effort has immortalised performances of Scarlatti, Rameau and Chopin that show the promise and brilliance of her ever-too-short career. This record is a tribute to her courage and to her creativity and, above all, to the indomitability of the human spirit which had set her on her path to musical and artistic greatness. *This recording was made with a 100 year old Bechstein piano*
The Franco-Iberian Community
Rosalind Bieber plays Domenico Scarlatti, Rameau and Chopin
The numbering and setting of an accurate chronology for the Scarlatti keyboard sonatas has always proven to be somewhat problematic. Born in Naples, Italy, in 1685 as the sixth of ten children of Alessandro Scarlatti, himself founder of the Neapolitan school of opera, it is known that Domenico Scarlatti lived and worked in Portugal between 1719 or 1720 and 1727 or 1728, when he returned to Italy before, finally, settling in Spain in 1729 where he was to spend the rest of his life and where he died, in Madrid, on 23 July 1757. He was lured to Portugal at the invitation of the Portuguese princess, Maria Magdalena Barbara, as her music instructor and his attachment to the Iberian way-of-life quickly developed to where, in the course of his life, Portugal and Spain were to become the focal points for his creative life and work. Scarlatti’s work in Portugal during the first 10 years of his sojourn there set the tone for almost all of his keyboard works. Indeed, the majority of these had been written in Portugal and those not composed there display significant Iberian influences which he acquired via his interest in and preoccupation with Iberian and especially Portuguese folk music. Also, many of these sonatas show the adoption of Moorish and Gypsy influences and, often, there is also a similarity to guitar techniques to be found in this music. Among these influences are also those he exerted on future musical forms including that on the Portuguese popular music form developed in the early 19th or late 18th centuries known as Fado which it draws on the influences of Scarlatti’s compositional experiments almost 80 years earlier. There have been comparisons made among the sonatas and significant similarities to Portuguese and Spanish popular idioms that exist in several of them among them studies and articles by W. Dean Sutcliffe for Cambridge University Press and Jane Clarke for the journal “Early Music”.
In addition, the close association between Scarlatti and the Portuguese court during those years and his general attraction to anything Iberian and its assimilation into his music, serve to cement the inseparable impression that Scarlatti was irreversibly enamored of Iberian music and allowed himself to be freely influenced by it. It is also to be remembered that Scarlatti was Maestro de Capilla at the Basilica de San Pedro in the years between 1715 and 1719 and was in the service of the Portuguese princess, Barbara de Braganza, in the years 1720 and 1721. In short, his association with Portugal and the Portuguese court and the Portuguese/Iberian influences on his music, influences that remained with him until his death in 1757 and which also had their echo in later, popular forms, make him, for all intent and purposes, an Iberian composer of Italian birth.
Jean-Philippe Rameau’s biography, especially the incidents of his early years, is hidden in obscurity. We know he was born in 1683 in Dijon, a community in western France and studied for a period in Italy, working there as a violinist and organist before returning to Paris and, later, to Dijon in 1709. His final sojourn in the French capitol began in 1722 and it is there that he published his key work on music theory, Traité de l’harmonie in 1722.
Rameau’s public image was, however, anything but positive. His critics condemned him as being miserly although we know of episodes of great generosity such as his help for his nephew Jean-François upon his arrival in Paris and his support of the career of Claude-Bénigne Balbastre. Following his death it was discovered that, despite his amassed wealth and great professional success, he had only owned one harpsichord, a decrepit instrument with a single keyboard, but that in his rooms was also to be found sacks of money amounting to, in today’s currency, about 400,000 Euros.
Although there exists no direct connection between Scarlatti and Rameau, two of the greatest composers of this age, the musical and philosophical similarity is a striking one. Both were discoverers of harmonic and expressive possibilities in music, which were to later bear fruit in the further development of keyboard music leading up to the works of Chopin. By the end of his life, however, the music of Rameau had fallen into disrepute, the trend favouring Italian sounds and models and the dance rhythms of Scarlatti became the lingua franca of the Italian baroque, eclipsing the role of France as the musical centerpiece of Europe.
With the advent of Chopin and his experiments into harmonic and melodic expressiveness, there began the development of a cross-border, European music which was to blossom in the late-Romantic. Chopin was Polish and, like Scarlatti, his music was based on dance rhythms from his homeland. Also like Scarlatti, Chopin’s music was coloured by his extensive travel and his encounter with Paganini in Warsaw in 1829 led to the composition of the first set of Etudes, works which set the stage for an almost infinite expansion of the possibilities of the piano as a solo instrument.
Chopin’s legendary romance with the cigar-smoking novelist, George Sand (Amantine Aurore Dupin) and their troubled relationship on the island of Mallorca in the winter of 1838-1839, a relationship made more difficult by the strict Catholic prejudices of the “mallorquinas” who, upon discovering that Chopin and Sand were, “living in sin” as an unmarried couple, drove them from their shelter on the island forcing them to seek refuge in the former Cartusian monastery of Valldemossa. This residence afforded almost no shelter from the cold and the winter of 1838-1839 was especially hard, a circumstance, which further complicated Chopin’s deteriorating health and led to his early death in the year 1849.
In summary, the three composers on this recording give witness to the wealth of influence prevalent in Europe between the mid- 18th and mid-19th centuries. This was a period of adventurous and brazen experimentation into new worlds of sound and of the cultural unification of a continent troubled by wars and political unrest. The Franco-Italian influences on Rameau played on the Italian-Iberian ones on Scarlatti and, in Chopin; these currents gave to the world a music of international importance. It is not insignificant that, following his death in 1849, Chopin’s body was interred in Paris but his heart returned to his homeland where it now rests in Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church. These three composers transcended nationalism in their music and developed a sound-world crossing political borders for both the people of their time as well as for those generations to follow them.