Randall Meyers

Solaris Records  ÷  Catalogue

Jiang Yi Lin




Masques op. 34

1. Shéhérazade

2. Tantris le Bouffon

3. Sérénade de Don Juan

“Everything in this music is a mask of the composer’s essential experiences, his flights of fancy, his suffering and his intoxication” – the Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM) wrote this about Szymanowski for the release of his Masques op. 34. In 1915, Szymanowski first composed the piano cycle Métopes op. 28 and the Mythes op. 30, in which he created novel means of expression for the violin by using various playing techniques. From this inspiration, he subsequently wrote his Masques, which he already completed the following year. In this quasi-parodic triptych, the artist is pushed to the limits of pianistic possibilities. In addition to a challenging virtuosity in the style of his contemporaries like Igor Stravinsky, this work creates a constant ambivalence of musical concepts through polyrhythm and polytonality. Topics are being transformed, developed, overlapping one another; differentiated, clear and subtle sound levels along with dense, complex and in layers towering arrangements. The wealth of tonal colors and nuances as well as the ambit of the dynamics are thereby stretched to the utmost, so that in this way, a unique musical language is heard.  

These Trois morceaux de piano each deal with one literary figure, who hides his/her true intentions behind a mask:  

Shéhérazade – dedicated to Sascha Dubiansky – is the protagonist of the Persian stories of A Thousand and One Nights. She escapes her own death by telling her king an endless tale every night whereby she always stops at the most exciting passage, so that he leaves her alive in order to be able to continue her story. Sweet sounds are thereby contrasting the desperate and dramatic mood.




Masque op. 63/1


“A texture of languor, sweetness, aimless wandering, a floating in air or on flames.” – this description applies to the Poèmes by Alexander Scriabin, the very first to begin implementing this type of programmatic approach on the piano.


The Masque of Scriabin’s Poèmes op. 63 can be looked upon as a link between his sixth sonata, which he himself had never publicly performed due to his fear of the satanic forces within it, and his seventh sonata, the White Mass, which were both created about the same time. Masked, Scriabin ascends to the heavens while at the same time descending into the abyss.


The very same ambiguity is reflected not only in Scriabin’s personality, but in his music as well. In Scriabin's Masque, “hidden gentleness” and “bizarre sounds” are standing close to one another; the mystery of the piece is conveyed by associative symbolism.


Even in this late work of Scriabin’s the desire, an unsustainable longing for sensuality and passion, remains continuously perceivable and as a result evolves into one of its supporting elements – a mask of its own character.


CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862–1918)


Masques L. 110 (105)


“This is not an Italian Commedia dell'arte, but the tragic expression of existence.” (original: Ce n’est pas la comédie italienne, mais l’expression tragique de l’existence) – the pianist Marguerite Long remembered this statement of Debussy regarding his Masques and used it to describe his inner conflict, hiden behind a veil of irony.


In 1904, Debussy persuaded his then-wife Marie-Rosalie “Lilly” Texier to spend the summer at her father’s, so he and his lover, the banker's wife Emma Bardac could be together alone. The two of them lived incognito as lovers on the island of Jersey, where Debussy eventually completed his Masques; initially planned as a Suite bergamasque with the two pieces D'un cahier d'esquisses and L'isle Joyeuse, but he promptly rejected this idea and published Masques as an independent work.


The continuous rhythmic element, a characteristic feature of his colleague Maurice Ravel, builds an integral component of this music: the consistent alternation between two and three beats per measure reinforces the ambiguity of his personality as well as the title’s. The same applies to the ratio of major to minor, whereby light and shadow, hope and resignation as these timbres stand close together. Debussy knew he had created a traumatic reality with his affair from which he was not able to escape. In Masques he incorporates his forebodings of the upcoming events: the calm that settles a little in the middle part is overshadowed by a gloomy atmosphere, which, along a threatening arc of suspense, find its way back to the reprise, hence its initial position.


Faced with this impasse, Debussy wrote to his wife Lilly that their marriage, which remained childless, had come to an end; she thereupon went to the Place de la Concorde in Paris and shot herself a bullet in the abdomen. Lilly survived her suicide attempt, however, and for Debussy this incident became a public scandal through which he lost many of his friends after his misdeeds had come to light.


At the end of this piece the mask falls: the continuous pulse disappears and a hopelessness spreads out over the empty, oriental-inspired fifths; the major chord of the last bar forms the final and sole ray of hope towards an unknown future.


FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797–1828)


Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946


1. Allegro assai


2. Allegretto


3. Allegro


“A road I must go, from which no one has ever returned.” (original: Eine Straße muss ich gehen, die noch keiner ging zurück) – this line from Schubert’s lieder cycle Winterreise – well captures the constitution in which the young composer had been; by the time seriously ill with syphilis and typhoid, only months before his death. Social isolation, melancholy and denial of life are hereof in stark contrast to his professional successes: in addition to private performances and invitations he received, he wrote a number of great works in his last months, among others, the Symphony No. 9 in C major as well as his last three piano sonatas.


In May 1828, Schubert wrote his Drei Klavierstücke, designed as a possible third impromptu cycle, which, by the time, never reached publication – not until forty years later Johannes Brahms first released them. In these, intimate, profound lyrics paired with varied harmonic shifts reflect the mood of their composer: a young man, unable to escape his fate. Expresses his pain and suffering using his music; at times direct and impetuous, scattered but in a more hidden manner.


Already in the first of these three pieces the unrest becomes apparent, representative of his lifetime drawing to an end, which can only be halted to a limited extend by the quieter middle section.


The second piece lives off his intimate melody, which itself is in complete opposition to the two central parts: the first gloomy, even threatening, the second depressed and melancholic.


The third piece reveals the mask of the composer in its most obvious form: its dancing character with a pacing chorale in its center, demonstrates itself even more painful in consideration of the way Schubert is trying to hide his suffering. The brilliant coda serves as his final appeal to life, the desire for pleasure, a call towards and out of his last hope before he  eventually takes his leave of this world.

FRANZ LISZT (1811–1886)


Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata S. 161/7


“... was the tormented mask of suffering hate?” (original: Le masque grimaçant de la haine qui souffre) – based on the Inferno of the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri, in 1836 the French writer Victor Hugo wrote his poem Après une lecture de Dante as a response to “the reading of a poetry, in which the horrors of the Dantesque visions of hell are resonating”. This musical pearl represented in its grotesque style a new direction for the French Romanticism and beyond it served Liszt as his inspiration.


The composer was unhappy with the fact, that he was solely associated with virtuoso music and so, motivated by this feeling, he embarked on several educational trips to delve into the local arts, literature and nature of the places he visited. Liszt processed the knowledge and experience he gained this way in the form of a musical journal in his three Années de pèlerinage, of which the second cycle, published in 1858, dealt with the Italian poetry, sculpture and painting.


This both technically and musically very demanding work from the Deuxième année, in which the composer merges the two genres of Fantasy and Sonata together, is also often referred to as the Dante Sonate – the subtitle Fantasia quasi Sonata was meant as a reference to Ludwig van Beethoven’s two Piano Sonatas op. 27 (Sonata quasi una fantasia). As with Hugo’s, this work is not to be seen as a concrete illustration of the literature. Much more, it is a poetic reflection of its dramatic and grotesque atmosphere, characterized by the different motifs, symbols and modes.


While the two themes in D minor (Lamento basses, complaints) and F sharp major (transfiguration, signs from heaven) alternate with each other, the tritone (diabolus in musica) builds the predominant element here; it not only serves the work as an introduction, but can be found throughout its entire length. Ultimately, the ingenious coda leads this journey through the Inferno to its final and expressive climax.



La lune d'automne au-dessus du lac tranquille


Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake (平湖秋月) – the title of one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, whose epithet consisting of four ideographs has been calligraphy carved in stone by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Legend has it that the West Lake once arose from a pearl, which fell down from heaven to earth as a dragon and a phoenix fought over the same; since that time the near Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province located West Lake is considered one of China’s most idyllic landscapes and is due to its scenic beauty a popular subject among numerous poets.


The Cantonese composer Lü Wencheng grew up in Shanghai, close to the West Lake, and lived there until the 1930s. After visiting the Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival, he was so inspired by the scenery that he subsequently composed his eponymous work in traditional Chinese music, which is, with its more than three thousand years of history, among the oldest in world history. In this work he combined his Cantonese roots with elements of Zhejiang folklore and musical influences of Shanghai.


Also known by the sobriquet Paris of the East, Shanghai has ever been the center of cultural life; the elegance of this metropolis is not only given expression in the French title La lune d'automne au-dessus du lac tranquille, but it flows through all the music, by which the composer skillfully  portrays this peaceful natural setting. It allows the individual person, for a moment, to forget one's personal mask and to find inner peace. In 1975, Chen Peixun wrote a transcription thereof, which has since been one of the most popular works in the Chinese piano repertoire.

Track Title Min. Listen Price Buy
1 KAROL SZYMANOWSKI Masques op. 34, Shéhérazade 9:48 2.00 €
2 KAROL SZYMANOWSKI Masques op. 34, Tantris le Bouffon 5:57 1.00 €
3 KAROL SZYMANOWSKI Masques op. 34, Sérénade de Don Juan 6:05 1.00 €
4 ALEXANDER SCRIABIN Masque op. 63/1 01:06 1.00 €
5 CLAUDE DEBUSSY Masques L. 110 (105) 04:43 1.00 €
6 FRANZ SCHUBERT Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946, Allegro assai 09:22 2.00 €
7 FRANZ SCHUBERT Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946, Allegretto 11:47 2.00 €
8 FRANZ SCHUBERT Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946, Allegro 05:15 1.00 €
9 FRANZ LISZT Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata S. 161/7 14:57 2.00 €
9.1 LÜ WENCHENG, ARR. CHEN PEIXUN, La lune d'automne au-dessus du lac tranquille 03:33 1.00 €
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