Hélène de Montgeroult

Portrait d’une compositrice visionnaire
Marcia Hadjimarkos fortepiano, Beth Taylor mS, Nicolas Mazzolini violin
Seulétoile SE09

The composer and pianist Hélène de Nervo, Marquise de Montgeroult by marriage, 1764-1836) lived through tumultuous times in her native France. With such a colourful career and such characterful music as the performers have found here, it is remarkable that she has passed below the radar for so long. A student of Dussek and Clementi, Montgeroult benefited from the rapid development of the piano-forte during her lifetime, a process she was able to take full advantage of during her years in Paris. Pianist Hadjimarkos also takes full advantage of the developing pianoforte in her choice of some striking stops in her performances of the solo Etudes (1812 and 1816) and accompanying Beth Taylor’s powerful accounts of the Nocturnes (1807). She plays a beautiful 1817 pianoforte by Antoine Neuhaus. The piano works appear as an appendix to a Complete Method for Piano, and while seven of the Etudes recorded here are for both hands, a further three focus more intently on the right hand and yet another on the left – presumably Montgeroult’s intention was to strengthen both hands of the performer independently and to build up their distinctive roles. Given their very practical purpose, these Etudes are remarkably imaginative and effective, and are given superbly expressive performances here. The subtitle of the CD is ‘Portrait d’une compositrice visionnaire’ and this aspect of Montgeroult’s strikingly individual musical style is very much to the fore in the performers’ minds. Mezzosoprano Beth Taylor gives beautifully eloquent accounts of the six short Nocturnes op 6 for solo voice and piano accompaniment. In the style of the time, the opus 2 Sonata no 6 (1800) for piano with accompaniment by the violin is just that, a piece very much led by the piano with fairly restrained commentary from the violin. It too is imaginatively presented by Hadjimarkkos with violinist Nicolas Mazzoleni. Montgeroult’s biographer Jérôme Dorival considers her the missing link between Mozart and Chopin, and while she might not be the only deserving candidate for this title, she is clearly an important composer who thoroughly deserves a place in the history of the early piano and in composition generally. These performers have done us all a great service in shining such a musically convincing spotlight on a composer who clearly merits much more attention.

D. James Ross

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