CHILDREN'S WORLD - Mirian Conti (Piano)

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CHILDREN'S WORLD - Piano works about childhood - Mirian Conti (Piano) - 034061164227 - Released: September 2016 - Albany Records TROY1642

1} Francis Poulenc: Villageoises - Petite Pièces Enfantines
2} Federico Mompou: Scènes d'enfants
3} Lalo Schifrin: Lullaby for Jack
4} Joaquin Turina: Ninerías, Op. 56, Vol. 2
5} Aram Khachaturian: Pictures of Childhood, Book 1 (selections)
6} Paul Creston: Pony Rondo (Rondino)
7} Carlos Guastavino: 10 Preludes (sobre melodias populares infantiles argentinas)
8} Robert Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15

It's refreshing to hear a collection like this that doesn't include the usual, simple, sickly-sweet 'lollipops' that have always been associated with children, either conceptually or as teaching material. But as pianist Mirian Conti points out in the booklet notes, "the compositions here are about children, not for children, or for pedagogical purposes." It's also interesting to note that the composers are from six different regions of the world, which further amplifies the diversity of styles and creative impetus behind each piece. All of them strive to musically envision or portray a child's world molded by its dreams, fears and innocent joy.

For example, the Jeunes filles au jardin from the Scènes d'enfants by Federico Mompou is imbued with the lazy haze of a summer afternoon in a Spanish garden. The world première recording here of Lalo Schifrin's Lullaby for Jack is disarming in its simple purity and gentle innocence. I was surprised to realize as soon as I heard it that Aram Khachaturian's Invention from the Pictures of Childhood is a transcription for solo piano of the haunting Adagio movement from his ballet Gayane, of which the orchestral version was later used in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Let me just say that the piano version, even in its skeletal form, still projects the same deep sense of sadness, isolation and loneliness as does the orchestral score, especially when played as expressively as it is here by Mirian Conti. In contrast you can't help but feel the boundless energy, joy and happiness that spills over from the Prelude En un coche va la nina by Argentinian composer Carlos Guastavino. Children dashing about in the yard as fast as they can is the image you instantly get when listening to Paul Creston's Pony Rondo. And of course the program ends with the famous Kinderszenen by Robert Schumann. If there ever was a piece of music that captured so well all the various facets of childhood, albeit in an abstract rather than a descriptive way, this is it.

The booklet notes of the CD state that: "Born in Argentina, Mirian Conti is a graduate of Juilliard and a Yamaha Artist. She has served on the Faculty of the Evening Division at The Juilliard School since 2007. She is a prolific recording artist who has recordings on the Island, Albany, Koch, Toccata, XLNT, Parnassus, and Steinway labels." And as I myself had mentioned in this review of one of her previous recordings, her solid recording and teaching background help her bring the proper insights, expression and emotional emphasis necessary to these pieces. A very worthwhile and important collection of piano pieces for those of us seeking the not so domestic and mundane.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2016