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Jacques Leguerney: Sonatine for piano and violin

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By Jacques Leguerney

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Piano Accompaniment, Violin - Advanced - Digital Download
Composed by Jacques Leguerney. 20th Century, Neo-Classical, Repertoire, Recital. Score, Solo Part. 46 pages. Published by Musik Fabrik Music Publishing (S0.139387).

Item Number: S0.139387

The Sonatine pour piano et violon, written in 1944, was first performed in May of that year in a private concert at the Rue La Fontaine (16ème arrondissement) in Paris with violinist Odette Malézieux and Leguerney’s friend and former piano teacher, Thérèse Cahen, at the piano. Malézieux was a distinguished chamber musician, composer, and a member of a family known for its involvement in artistic and intellectual pursuits. This was one of her last appearances as she died at the end of the same
month. This was also quite probably Thérèse Cahen's final concert: she was deported to Auchwitz at the end of July 1944.

The public premiere of the Sonatine pour piano et violon took place at the American Cultural Center in Paris on 25 February 1959, interpreted by French violinist Michel Chauveton with French composer Jean-Michel Damase at the piano. Chauveton included this work often in the repertoire of his recitals, in Denmark, Spain and in Italy, where he performed with pianist Marten Bon. Leguerney's Sonatine pour piano et violon, coupled with Sonata, opus 105 by Robert Schumann, was recorded in 1961 by Michel Chauveton and Jean-Michel Damase for the Lumen label (MD. 2.441).

One should note that the Sonatine uses many of the same harmonic inflections in its melodic lines as does Leguerney’s vocal repertoire: chromaticism, melismas, disjunctive intervals, and accompanying harmonies that are enriched and unexpected. Henri Sauguet’s comment that Leguerney’s music resembled Hermes china could be applied to this work, which contains all of the beauty and elegance of Leguerney’s musical language in a jewel-box setting. This use of music as a combination of the delicate and powerful sides of his nature not only served Leguerney for his chamber music and song repertoire, but was expanded with great virtuosity into larger forms, including his two ballets, Endymion and La Vénus Noire.

The Sonatine pour piano et violon was later dedicated to Anne and Patrick Choukroun, friends and supporters of Leguerney and his oeuvre. Patrick is the author of a doctoral dissertation on Leguerney’s life and work, as well as co-author of Interpreting the Songs of Jacques Leguerney: A Guide for Study and Performance (Pendragon Press).

From Emile Vuillermoz’s liner notes of the 1961 Lumen recording

The sonatina is a charming genre that should be used more often. In its reduced format, it brings us the essential qualities of the classical sonata, all the while lightening its formal obligations which, too often, indiscreetly expose its scholastic armature. The opposition of two well-chosen themes, a short development and a re-exposition are sufficient for an accomplished composer to give the necessary homage to the form, all the while allowing pure musical invention to have more spontaneity and liberty. Ravel illustrated this formula with a pianistic masterwork and we congratulate Jacques Leguerney's enrichment of the violin repertoire with a score inspired by the same principles. One can only reproach him for having left a work composed in 1944 to languish in his desk!

His sonatina is an exceptional achievement. From the outset he found the light, amiable and elegant style necessary for this type of work. Without making any concessions to his personality, this composer of so many gracious and alluring works has remembered the valuable example that Gabriel Fauré left for all musicians who attack the demanding chamber music genre: defend the rights of pure "melodiousness" while refining to the extreme its harmonic atmosphere  In this Sonatina there is no melodic element that is abstract, scholastic or redundant. It is a gracious and sunny work that is not afraid of being charming, but whose harmonic fabric is astonishingly rich. What unprecedented luxury in the unexpected modulations, exceptional resolutions, avoided cadences, erudite tonal or modal ambiguity, subtle twists and turns, agile feints and both rapid and evanescent escapes into distant tonalities, almost immediately abandoned with a caress!

This music is neither atonal nor polytonal, it thrives, on the contrary, upon paying homage to tonality by means of the delicious instability that makes it seem urgent to secretly follow this thread of Adriane into a labyrinth of sounds. Playfully, the author leads our ears away from the familiar, stealing what they expect in order to double our pleasure when he gives us back what we thought we had lost.

What could be more agreeable than to follow the caprices of perpetual stimulation in the “para-tonal” ambiance that makes this first Allegro so supple and distinguished as the two themes meet each other with such ease, and at every turn, display fleeting, glistening perspectives that never turn them away from their well-planned route? What a surprise to find, in the Andante, such a contrasting emotional climate! The piano exposes, in d minor, a captivating phrase that it leads serenely to its conclusion. The violin continues, singing in turn, a melody that gradually becomes extremely moving and elevates our thoughts
The second motif is escorted, at regular intervals, by delicate pianistic embroidery whose slightly menacing nervosity brings out the sweetness of the cantabile. And the return to the first theme, lovingly intertwined with the violin's phrases, brings back the touching atmosphere of the beginning.

The Scherzando returns to the familiar and airy tone of the first movement with its amusing alternation of the two themes whose entertaining dialogue alternates between Harlequin's grace and Columbine's sentimentality. The traditional Finale is replaced by a Serenade sung by a gallant whose impatience is betrayed as he tunes his guitar by scratching the instrument’s strings with alarming violence. I believe I can predict for the Sonatine pour piano et violon a most brilliant future.

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