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Monique Haas ∙ Volume 1

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Monique Haas in recital justifies her repute as a master of ancient and modern colors, often revealing the kinship of each. Recorded in Leipzig, 19 March 1956, this fine recital by Haas, whose repute for elegance, passion, and articulation had its best statement from Francis Poulenc: “The adorable Monique Haas plays ravishingly.” These rare live broadcast recordings make their first appearance on CD.

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MONIQUE HAAS – The Leipzig Piano Recital 1956

1-3. MOZART: Piano Sonata in C Major, K.330 [17:54]
4-6. PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No.7 in B-flat Major, Op.83 [17:08]
7-9. DEBUSSY: Images, L.110 (1ère série) [14:58]
10. LISZT: La leggierezza, Concert Étude No.2, HS.144 [04:45]
11. COUPERIN: Le Tic-toc-choc ou les maillotins [01:54]
12. COUPERIN: Les barricades mystérieuses [02:46]
13. RAMEAU: Les Cyclopes (Rondeau) [03:14]
14. RAMEAU: L’entretien des muses [05:27]
15. RAMEAU: Le rappel des oiseaux [03:57]
16. RAVEL: III.Forlane, Tombeau de Couperin [03:55]
17. CHOPIN: Etude No. 4 in C-sharp minor, Op.10 [02:09]

Recorded ∙ 19 March 1956 ∙ Leipzig ∙ Kongresshalle ∙ Rundfunk der DDR ∙ Live Recording

Additional Information

Article number: MC 1006
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050064
Total time: 78:13

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to Allan Evans

Monique Haas was born in Paris on October 20, 1909. Her first advanced studies were at the Paris Conservatoire, where her most important teachers were Joseph Morpain and Lazare Lévy. Haas won first prize in piano performance as a student there in 1927. Her other teachers there were Tournemire (chamber music), Demarquez (harmony), and Emmanuel (music history). She went on to study privately with Rudolf Serkin, Robert Casadesus and George Enescu.

Following her debut in 1927, Monique Haas concertized widely and frequently, her tours covering most European countries, the former Soviet Union, Asia, Australia and USA. She performed as a soloist with orchestras, as a recitalist and in duo recitals with George Enescu and Pierre Fournier. She was widely regarded as among the leading French pianists from the early and mid-20th century. She performed a broad repertoire, from J.S. Bach, Haydn, and Mozart to Béla Bartók, Prokofiev, and Messiaen.

Haas 2

Like many of the French pianists who grew up in the aftermath of World War I, Monique Haas’s repertoire was characterised by an avoidance of Romantic composers and a significant representation of French music. Pieces by François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau appeared regularly on her programmes. She refined her legato playing to embrace the atonal and neo-classic schools, providing a rich gloss on otherwise a purely digital tradition.

She also occupies a special place in French keyboard artistry for her adherence to a modernist aesthetic, and her advocacy of the post-Ravel classicists: Messiaen, Mihalovici, Webern, Stravinsky, Roussel, Hindemith, and Bartok. Yet, Haas maintained a decided allegiance to “traditional” composers Debussy, Mozart, Schumann, Couperin, Haydn, and Ravel.

Her precise, elegant style fit well with Baroque, Classical, and modern music, leaving little wonder why she avoided the Romantic school. The music of Schumann was the significant exception to her neglect of romanticism, though she also included Chopin’s studies in her repertoire. French piano players of Haas’s generation were moving away from the facile and often brittle technique associated with Marguerite Long (frequently referred to as the “diggy-diggy-dee” style).

Haas combined the cleanness and precision associated with the older school with a warmth of tone colour that reflected the influence of Alfred Cortot. Her unsentimental readings, especially of Debussy and Ravel, give a different view of their music, presenting them as both modern and as inheritors of the tradition of François Couperin and the clavecinistes of the 18th century. She could be transcendental in Debussy where other pianists stuck to the barlines.

She was married to the French-Romanian composer Marcel Mihalovici. They met through their musical interest in music and had solved the problem of having two artists in one family – by working together in one room. “While Monique practises, I work at my home desk composing: I have learnt to shut my ears when I wish to do so.” Mihalovici explained once. He wrote many of his piano compositions for her, including sonatas and several works for piano and orchestra. She made notable recordings of his Op. 45 Sonata for Violin and Piano (No. 2) and his Op. 46 Ricercari.

Haas

In the pre-war and wartime eras, Haas performed on occasion with some of the most prominent composers of the day, among them Francis Poulenc, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, and George Enescu, who was a friend and mentor of Mihalovici.

The French composer Francis Poulenc, himself an accomplished pianist, praised her as “the adorable Monique Haas who plays the piano ravishingly” and Henri Dutilleux described her as “a celebrated interpreter of the music of Ravel”.

Haas remained active on the concert stage and in the recording studio even while she took up teaching (1967 – 1970) at the Paris Conservatoire and conducted master-classes at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Her husband died in 1985 and she died in Paris two years later on June 6, 1987, regarded as one of the most influential and highly praised pianists of her generation.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Audiophile Audition Classical Review August 2014

Monique Haas in recital justifies her repute as a master of ancient and modern colors, often revealing the kinship of each.
Published on August 12, 2014

Monique Haas = MOZART: Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 330; PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; DEBUSSY: Images, Book I; LISZT: La Leggierezza; COUPERIN: Le Tic-Tac Choc; Les barricades mysterieuses; RAMEAU: Les Cyclopes; L’entretien des muses; Le rappel des oiseaux; RAVEL: Le Tombeau de Couperin: Forlane; CHOPIN: Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 10, No. 4 – Monique Haas, piano – MeloClassic MC 1006, 78:13 [www.meloclassic.com]

Recorded in Leipzig, 19 March 1956, we have a fine recital by French keyboard virtuoso Monique Hass (1909-1987), whose repute for elegance, passion, and articulation had its best statement from Francis Poulenc: “The adorable Monique Haas plays ravishingly.” An artist who eschewed the dry, sec style of Marguerite Long, Haas cultivated a clean, precise but warm tone color that followed her teacher, Lazare Levy, as well as Alfred Cortot and Robert Casadesus.

The present recital indicates something of the breadth of the Haas repertory, which often favored the Baroque and modern era to the exclusion of the familiar Romantics. Her carefully polished attacks, clarion trills, and scintillating semi-staccato runs in the 1784 Mozart C Major Sonata will doubtless invoke the memory of Dinu Lipatti in this tonal world. Each musical period enjoys a distinctive arch, what Rachmaninov called “the point.” The otherwise ‘galant’ Andante cantabile becomes a richly textured meditation in the minor, deeply affecting in Mozart’s understated syntax.

The Haas approach to the so-called 1943 “War Sonata” No. 7 of Sergei Prokofiev lies within her classically chiseled contours ripened by a depth of personal expression, especially for the sense of imminent threat and danger, opposed by an irresistible will to life. A sense of the barbaric rages in her opening Allegro inquieto, with its sudden, percussive outrages of fortune. Even in the calm section of the first movement , we receive intimations of the (ironic) influence of Schumann’s song ‘Wehmuth” from his Op. 39 that informs the second movement, Andante coloroso. Yet, a sense of detachment reigns, modernist, in that it proceeds mechanically, ineluctably. Whether the final moment of pure bravura, the Precipitato last movement, attests to spiritual victory or to moral catastrophe, remains the Sphinx that drives this enigmatic but compelling score.

Haas, like Ravel, loved to connect the school of “Impressionism” with the French clavecin tradition. The 1905 set of Images, Livre I of Debussy correspond to the fanciful aspirations of those clavicinistes, here positing an amalgam of title, color, rhythm and sonority to produce an independent sound-world. Liquid, of course, characterizes the chordal progressions and scalar patterns of Reflets dans l’eau. But the Haas parlando proves as moving and supple as her arpeggios. That Rameau serves as a model for Debussy is no accident: Debussy had been editing the opera Les Fetes de Polymnie by that composer. In G-sharp Minor, Debussy’s (Spanish) sarabande celebrates the older master in staid terms. The Mouvement section serves as a bravura precursor, a toccata, for Bartok and Stravinsky.

The two Couperin pieces – favorites of my own teacher Jean Casadesus – appeal to the glisteningly playful – a perpetuum mobile in sixteenths – and the enigmatic: especially the “Mysterious Barricades” in chains of suspensions and unresolved arpeggios and chords that might hint at amorous pursuits.

The two exceptions to the Haas avoidance of the Romantic impulse – the Liszt and the Chopin – grant her two potent etudes that flex her musical muscles with astonishing aplomb. The Liszt study in lithe, flexible touch and a top singing line place Haas in the same league with those other Gallic giants, de la Bruchollerie and Darre. The Chopin Etude in C-sharp Minor extends the exercise in perpetual-motion sixteenths, here passionately and tempestuously, Presto con fuoco.

The Rameau group demonstrates the philosophe-compositeur’s ideas on “method,” first, here in the form of homage to Les Cyclopes of Homer, an erupting etude to depict the forgers of the gods’ thunderbolts. Evocative and lyric, L’entretien des muses celebrates the venue of Art itself, perhaps a suggestion of Watteau’s paintings. The soft palette realized by Haas and her limber trill pays your admission price. Le rappel des oiseaux plays with the interval of a fourth, leaping for the freedom of birds’ calls and played by feathered fingers.

The Ravel Forlane appears as an encore, which Haas announces. A striking precision dominates the dance, just as Stravinsky had described all of Ravel’s music. But the elegance of line that Haas projects cannot be duplicated by mechanism alone.

© Gary Lemco

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