The Piano Music of Thomas de Hartmann

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The series of CD releases of the music of Thomas de Hartmann is largely the work of The Thomas de Hartmann Project, a group of dedicated volunteers and individuals joined by the common goal of bringing Thomas de Hartmann’s music to public attention. The primary aim of The Thomas de Hartmann Project is to make publicly available the compositions of Thomas de Hartmann; today a music as strangely inaudible as the composer is invisible, outside small groups familiar with de Hartmann's musical collaborations with G.I. Gurdjieff. Robert Fripp

De Hartmann’s output as a composer included four symphonies, several operas, concertos, sonatas, and songs with texts by Marcel Proust, Paul Verlaine, James Joyce, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as fifty-three film scores. By his early twenties he was one of the best-known living composers in all of Russia. His music was enthusiastically supported by performers and conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Eugène Bigot, Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier, and Jean-Pierre Rampal. The fragmented path his life was to follow brought him into direct contact with some of the most intriguing personalities of the century. The turbulent historical events through which he lived may, however, have kept de Hartmann’s music from reaching a wider audience. With the de Hartmann papers now widely available for scholarly examination, the opportunity is ripe for a new look at this composer’s unique contributions.




The history and background to de Hartmann's life and work is fascinating, and John Mangan's booklet notes are superb in providing a balance between content, detail and readability…

…I came to this collection with no expectations, not until now having been particularly aware of Thomas de Hartmann's piano music. This is a brilliant survey, superbly played and recorded, of some tremendously worthwhile music. If your Venn diagram of musical appreciation coincides with contemporaries of de Hartmann such as Martinů, Bartók, Hindemith and others, then you will find much to appreciate here. Thomas de Hartmann didn't have quite the thematic distinctiveness of Stravinsky or Prokofiev, but he was a supreme craftsman with his own unique musical personality, and I am truly grateful to Elan Sicroff for bringing him to our attention.


Music Web International – Classical Review


And the piano music? The early fin de siècle pieces evince a song-without-words salon melancholy… The Divertissements from Forces of Love and Sorcery show pure charm in the Olden Style…

The earlier work is notable for the calm elegance of its central Aria, spare and refined, and for the contrasting perpetuum mobile in the finale where Stravinsky looms large amidst the tensile momentum of the music making. The 1951 sonata is, if anything, even more approachable, the music oscillating between the static and the dramatic before admitting a sinuous and engaging song-like figure that becomes more and more dappled. The Larghetto encodes ghostly hints of a Fugato – this is deft and allusive music-making, shadowy and withholding.

The Nocturnes are an intriguing pair… Its mysterious runs, its unresolved harmonies and its sense of the infinite inscrutability of things is conveyed with mature assurance. The Dance of Life – is inevitably more brittle with the tune The Lullaby of Broadway used and subjected to derisive dissonance, with the exception of one dreamy moment of reflection. Fascinating...

Elan Sicroff proves an exceptional exponent of a sometimes bewilderingly diverse range of musical influences – from the nineteenth century via the salon and thence to Scriabin, Stravinsky, and perhaps a little Bartók. These represent, at least, some of the staging posts of de Hartmann's musical journey, the eclectic and the cosmic, as well as the demotic and the enrichment of American material, all adding up to an intriguing compositional voice.


Music Web International – Classical Review

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