The nineteenth volume in this long-running series devoted to musicians and composers of the First World War is intriguingly programmed. Ervin Schulhoff’s transitional Fünf Groteskenrevels in dance-based anti-romanticism and its droll aspect embraces filmic compression and exaggeration as well as traces of the Baroque. The subversive elements of Schulhoff’s compositional imagination, fermented by his war service, are also apparent in this five-movement cycle which is played by Steven Vanhauwaert with real appreciation of its frantic and thumbing qualities.
Hindemith’s In Einar Nacht is a multi-movement suite with some vaguely impressionist hues and rapt stillness in places that vests it with a tremendous sense of concentrated quietude, as well as character. Then again, the refractive intimacy of the Lassitudes movement is balanced by the nocturnal calls in Rufe in der horchenden Nacht, the fluttering-winged sixth movement, the febrile Nersosität and the birdsong of the ninth. Following the penultimate, all-the-rage Fox-Trot with the concluding Double Fugue is a little stroke of mocking genius. Casella’s brief triptych Inezie, meanwhile, is full of rhythmic and harmonic interest and ends with a quietly insistent Berceuse. Wrapped up in five minutes this hardly outstays its welcome.
Raymond Moulaert, a now almost-forgotten figure, was Belgian and held a series of prestigious academic positions over the years. His piano training with Arthur de Greef must have equipped him well and his Sonatine teems with fresh minted Fauréan sensibility, though occasionally one that veers into slightly knottier areas. Debussy haunts the central movement of the panel through the over-busy finale might profitably have been pruned a little. Finally, Louis Vierne is represented by his Poème des cloches funèbres: Le Glas. This is the only surviving movement of what was intended to be a four-movement suite. By 1916 Vierne had already lost two sons – one in combat – and his soldier brother, and the controlled anguish that permeates the piece evokes Ravel in places. The bells are intoned by the stentorian bass.
Here again Vanhauwaert proves an excellent guide in a reasonable recorded acoustic. This is a most enjoyable disc, full of a ripe variety of expressive piano music.