November 11, 2016
Frits van der Waa
They have worked on this labour of love for many years and the end-product shows it. Just the visual design of the box and discs of the Thomas de Hartmann Project, a pretty little box with 7 CDs and 3 booklets, deserves an award. The contents of the CDs are equally brilliant.
De Hartmann? Wasn’t he a follower and musical secretary of that remarkable philosopher Gurdjieff, whose music sometimes is performed at festivals? Correct. But De Hartmann (1885-1956), who was born in Ukraine and who later lived in France and America, also composed his own music and left a catalogue of over 80 opus numbers, with many facets.
Pianist Elan Sicroff, who studied De Hartmann’s music with the composer’s widow, has recorded a substantial part of de Hartmann’s chambermusic and songs together with a fine selection of musicians, thereby saving it from oblivion.
This collection of recorded world premieres spans the timeframe between de Hartmann’s earliest works (composed when he was 15!) and his later works like the Two Nocturnes from the early 1950s.
The first CDs are relatively normal, with sophisticated and simple pieces of salon-music in the style of the 1920’s. Meticulously crafted, all of them, but one expects something a little more adventurous from a man who was a friend of the painter Kandinsky. After de Hartmann had reached age 50 his style began to change. His music becomes more explicit, more exciting, often bi-tonal and utilizing larger structures than before. There is an exciting Sonata for Cello, a Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano and the Six Commentaries from Ulysses, an extraordinarily intriguing piece.
Sicroff has the talent of presenting de Hartmann’s pianistical perfume, as well as the inherent meaning of his music in a wonderful way. With musical collaborators like sopranos Claron McFadden and Nina Lejderman, flutist Ingrid Geerlings and violinist Joris van Rijn (among others) the calibre of the recordings is guaranteed.