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The debut of a record released on April 14th 2019, included in the "Records of 2019" project

Tuesday, 21 May 2019 , ora 11.03

Pianist Alexandra Dariescu's latest record - the third volume in the preludes series, was released on the 14th of April under the Champs Hill Records label. The special release event featured a performance by Alexandra Dariescu at Wigmore Hall in London on April 14th.

Lili Boulanger's Prelude in D-flat Major, 9 preludes opus 103 by Gabriel Faure and 8 preludes by Olivier Messiaen - compositions written in the first two decades of the 20th century - can all be found on the third volume of the preludes series recorded by Alexandra Dariescu.

Alexandra Dariescu: " I released the first record of this series in 2013. The goal was to have complete recordings of the preludes by composers who are very close to my heart, who fascinate me, and it was, in a way, a challenge for my own journey. I started with volume one which was comprised of the complete preludes by Chopin and Dutilleux, three years later I recorded preludes by Shostakovich and Szymanowski and now I recorded the preludes by Lili Boulanger, Faure and Messiaen. I chose preludes that are not as popular. Of course, it would have been easier to perform Debussy or the preludes by Rachmaninoff, but I wanted to introduce the public to a completely different universe. The preludes by Messiaen are the most challenging for me in this sense because they are not often performed and Messiaen was only 20 years old when he composed them; it's his first opus that he published and it is a piece that introduces both the listener and the performer to the fascinating world of Messiaen. It's a world which... it didn't have its specific language yet, but he beautifully shows the connection between Faure and Debussy and the language that was forming in his world. And the preludes by Lili Boulanger show us how her universe could have been. She died when she was 24 years old. She would have had an exceptional career, but it unfortunately came to an end so abruptly. And, of course, the preludes by Faure... Faure was already in his 60s, he had trouble with his hearing, but the universe he introduces us to is simply extraordinary. For me it was a journey of discovery. The way these French composers use the entire keyboard, all the versatility of the piano, all the resonances... it is an universe I've never been privy to until now." - Alexandra Dariescu, on the preludes series which started in 2013 and the third record in this series.

The inclusion of a piece composed by a female composer was intentional, continuing Alexandra Dariescu's recent efforts to promote other pieces by female composers.

Alexandra Dariescu: "We show a real image of Paris as it was at the time because we have also included a female composer on this record. I don't know how our listeners grew up, but I grew up surrounded by male composers. I've lived in Bach's, Mozart's, Rachmaninoff's, Ravel's, Debussy's worlds and the fact that we now rediscover these female composers who left behind such extraordinary works is amazing. I am thrilled first of all that this record label, Champs Hill Records, gave me the freedom to record exactly what I wanted, to have my own vision. I had extraordinary freedom, which enabled me to express myself exactly how I think right now, in this stage of my life. And such a tetralogy of preludes is extraordinary. Aside from The Nutcracker, this is the project I hold most dear and I've worked the hardest on.

What does it mean that you worked the hardest? I think these scores were a challenge for you as a pianist.

Yes, a challenge from the point of view of the repertoire, but also from a personal point of view because the moment I start a project, the most important thing to me is to complete it, but in a way in which I preserve my own identity and I don't give up... because the score by Messiaen was extremely difficult to decipher, to study, to appropriate it in a way. And I am glad this project lasted a few years, but as we know, any beautiful project that has some complexity to it takes longer to complete, it couldn't have been done in a year or two...and I am so glad that I could complete this project.

How do you expect this third volume to be received by the public?

I hope that they will receive it with a lot of joy and notice the journey I have made with these preludes since 2013. I think it simply introduces us to a different world, a world from a century ago in Paris, which was the center of the musical universe, a world which shows us the other side of society through the piano.

How did these six years of preludes change you?

I am probably more adventurous when it comes to choosing the pieces. I wanted to have Chopin, Dutilleux, Shostakovic, Szymanowski, Faure and Messiaen from the beginning; that was how I presented the project to the label, and they were pleased at the time. Lili Boulanger came later and, probably, if I'm going to do another preludes record in the future, a female composer will be more prominent on it.

On the third volume of the preludes series recorded for the British label Champs Hill Records Alexandra Dariescu proposes the nine preludes by Gabriel Faure, composed between 1909 and 1910. It was a difficult period; his position as director of the Paris Conservatory took much of his time and energy, he started to lose his hearing, he suffered a similar illness that rendered Beethoven deaf. The preludes by Faure are a sample of the later style of his composition, an advanced language in which we recognize the characteristics of modernism. And an atmosphere reminiscent us of Scriabin.

Next on this record are the eight preludes by Olivier Messiaen, composed between 1928 and 1929 - Messiaen was 20 years old at the time and was still influenced by the impressionists, especially Debussy. We discover, however, one of the leitmotifs of Messiaen's composition, the interest in the song of the birds - the first prelude is titled, for example, The Pigeon.

I consider Alexandra Dariescu's record as proof of her maturity at the age of 34; an amazing performance, oozing with the colour and ambience necessary when performing these French opuses from the beginning of the 20th century, but also a very confident, daring and winning, I would say, choice of repertoire. It's interesting to hear valuable opuses which we rarely have the chance to listen to in other such recordings - a bold bet on Alexandra Dariescu's part, especially with the difficult preludes by Messiaen.

Cristina Comandașu
Translated by Alina-Nicoleta Duminică,
MTTLC 1, University of Bucharest