Violinist Merel Vercammen returns to NativeDSD with her new album The Boulanger Legacy from TRPTK. The album follows her previous releases Silent City and The Zoo.
On The Boulanger Legacy, Vercammen not only plays the music with pianist Dina Ivanova, but she also wrote the album liner notes and ran a crowd funding campaign to fund the recording and its release! TRPTK tells NativeDSD “We’re so stoked about this one!”
That Merel Vercammen is constantly looking for new challenges is something she proves with her new TRPTK production. ‘The Boulanger Legacy’ is a thematically curated album in which the music of Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) and her students are the common thread. “Her influence on the music of the twentieth century has been gigantic,” Vercammen says. The school, of which she would become director in Fontainebleau, attracted many American music students. Various names such as Aaron Copland, Jean Françaix, Philip Glass, Daniel Barenboim, Elliott Carter, and Quincy Jones took lessons from her. Referring to her surname, there was talk of the “boulangerie,” as if she delivered composers like loaves of bread. The album includes works by her sister Lili Boulanger, Grażyna Bacewicz, Leonard Bernstein and Astor Piazzolla.
The three pieces by the young Lily Boulanger (1893-1918) that she wrote for violin and piano are featured with the expressive ‘D’un matin de printemps’ (1917) standing out. Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) enjoys great fame in her native country. Her music is highlighted here with the beautiful ‘Sonata No. 3 for Violin & Piano’ (1948). An early, modernist work by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) ‘Sonata for Violin and Piano’ (1979) features a series of variations in which he plays with form.
Additional color comes from “Le Grand Tango” (1982) by Argentina’s Astor Piazzolla, a piece he originally dedicated to the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Composer Sofia Gubaidulina arranged it for violin and piano. Vercammen and pianist Ivanova seem to step outside themselves for a moment in this special performance. Like no other, the duo lets the energy of the tango speak for itself! “We really had to make those rhythms our own,” Vercammen remarks.
The carefully constructed album concludes with the first movement, ‘Modéré,’ from Nadia Boulanger’s ‘Trois pièces.’ Melancholic music originally written for piano and cello but suited with a violin part by Vercammen.
Merel Vercammen – Violin
Dina Ivanova – Piano
Total time: 00:57:40
|Analog to Digital Converters||
Hapi and Anubis, Merging Technologies
Furutech custom microphone cables, Furutech custom balanced interlinks, Furutech custom power cables, Furutech custom loudspeaker cables
Grimm Audio CC2 at 352.8 kHz
DPA d:dicate 4006A, DPA d:dicate 4015A, Sony C100
KEF Blade Two loudspeakers, KEF LS50 loudspeakers, Hegel H30 amplifiers, Sennheiser HD800S headphones
JCAT NET Card FEMTO, JCAT M12 Switch Gold, Furutech e-TP609E NCF, Furutech NCF Boosters, R.T.F.S. acoustic modules
|Original Recording Format|
Steinway Model D-274 Concert Grand Piano
Furutech Daytona 303E, CAD Ground Control GC1
Brendon Heinst, Antal van Nie (Assistant Engineer)
This album was recorded between at the Westvest90 church in Schiedam, The Netherlands, between September 29th and October 1st 2020
|Release Date||April 30, 2021|
Conductor Nadia Boulanger was a composition teacher at Fontainebleau for thirty years and is still remembered as the greatest music educator of the last century. Her Conservatoire Américain (located seventy kilometers south of Paris) left a big mark on 20th Century American Musical Life. The ‘boulangerie’ (bakery, a funny hint on Nadia’s family name) delivered composers like hot cakes over the counter.
Her students include pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, composers Jean Françaix, Aaron Copland, Astor Piazzolla and Philip Glass, and songwriter and record producer Quincy Jones (the man who produced albums by Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Patti Austin, Leslie Gore, and many others).
Violinist Merel Vercammen has composed the recital The Boulanger Legacy (‘The legacy of Boulanger’) around the music of Nadia Boulanger, her pupils, and her younger sister Lili on this new album from TRPTK.
Vercammen, who graduated cum laude from the Royal College of Music in London, has found her musical equal in the pianist Dina Ivanova – winner of the public prize at the Liszt Competition in Utrecht in 2017. Together they know how to lift ensemble playing to a rare high level.
In this pair, chamber music becomes a medium without fussy or false vanity. Vercammen and Ivanova make music with their hearts on their sleeve and then you, as a listener, are glued to listen to the temperamental sounds of Gracina Bacewicz.
For example, after the playful third movement from her Sonata No. 3 for violin and piano, which originated in 1948 and is full of French influences. Breakneck also in virtuosity and energetic drive.
The violinist calls her the most underrated composer of the twentieth century. World famous in Poland, but that’s it for the time being. Her music fascinates because of the wonderful mixture between folk music and a moderately modern idiom.
The music of Lili Boulanger sounds wonderfully lilting. Very refined too. And fits perfectly with this program.
Bernstein was one of the last to speak with Nadia Boulanger. His Violin Sonata, however, dates from 1939, before his contact with the renowned pedagogue. In fact, it is a series of variations. Later a fragment from the fourth variation ended up in his Second Symphony.
Vercammen and Ivanova are excellent advocates for this challenging, tough, and self-confident work by a 21-year-old composer. Also, a true tour de force in terms of length.
Boulanger knew better than anyone that Piazzolla’s great strength was in tango music. That is why Le Grand Tango from 1982 is on the program. This work, intended for the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, was converted for violin by Sofia Gubaidulina.
And that setting also works. The two soloists hit the melancholy and sultry passion straight to the heart.
Because Nadia stopped composing after Lili’s death, it was difficult for Vercammen and Ivanova to find a suitable finale for their recital. Fortunately, they can manage with their own adaptation of the first movement from Trois Pièces from 1914. Music that is reminiscent of Fauré in terms of melodicity. The result is a lyrical, very dreamy conclusion.
Too bad that Nadia has given up as a composer. Hopefully, however, Vercammen and Ivanova will release a new collection of music by her students within a short period of time.
Because this first recital, also because of the original and sustainable presentation, tastes like more and certainly deserves to be awarded prizes in the course of the year.
Merel Vercammen is an enterprising violinist. She keeps the initiative and choice of repertoire in her own hands, arranges financing through successful crowdfunding and writes the liner notes herself. Her third album The Boulanger Legacy, features the music of Nadia and Lili Boulanger, the Parisian sisters, who are each famous in their own way, but closely related to each other.
When Vercammen talks about The Boulanger Legacy, it is not only about Lili and Nadia herself, but also about Nadia’s enormous line of disciples. The fact that Vercammen and Ivanova stand up for the Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz is characteristic of their laudable preference to avoid the well-known paths of the repertoire. The fact that the Polish Bacewicz (1909-1969) still must wait to be discovered is due to the shameful attention we still have for female composers. “The most underrated composer of the 20th century”, Vercammen writes. Her immediately appealing third violin sonata from 1948 exudes the French atmosphere of the interwar period, but also has all kinds of contrasting individual traits that belong to a personal and surprising idiom. A discovery, certainly…
The violin sonata by the 21-year-old Bernstein dates from 1939 and does not belong to the Boulanger ‘legacy’, because Lenny and ‘mademoiselle’ did not know each other at the time. But Vercammen makes it plausible that this row of variations fits very well with a learning process in which Nadia automatically started to play a guiding role. Bernstein stayed in touch with her for life and was one of the last to speak to her before her death in 1979.
It is well known that Astor Piazzolla also belongs to Nadia’s pupils. A famous anecdote relates that she only started to find his music interesting after he played a tango for her. Undoubtedly her insights contributed to the way in which he managed to style Argentine tango into an autonomous artistic genre. Vercammen plays the Grand Tango that Piazzolla wrote for Rostropovich in a violin transcription made by Sofia Gubaidulina. This part of the album was previously released on a single, an almost unprecedented phenomenon in the classical world.
The album starts and ends with the Boulanger sisters themselves. Lili’s Nocturne and Cortège and D’un matin de printemps are beautiful and rewarding atmospheric pieces. This also applies to the first, Moderé from Nadia’s Trois pièces (also actually for cello), which shows that she was too harsh on herself with her own judgment about her composing talent.
Vercammen and her Russian piano partner Dina Ivanova (third prize Liszt Competition 2017) are striking talents with a creative and original angle and the recording by Brendon Heinst leaves nothing to be desired.
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