Music by Haskell Small
and Mussorgsky -
'... indisputably fine pianism ...'
Envisioned by The Phillips Collection (established Washington DC, 1921) and released by New York media company, Museum Music (MM141), this CD centres on a one-off commission -- a musical celebration of Renoir's classic oil painting, Le Déjeuner des Canotiers ('Luncheon of the Boating Party', 1881), a work dedicated to Persian/American pianist, Soheil Nasseri.
The scene was Maison Fournaise, a restaurant about ten miles south of Paris on the Ile de Chatou. Renoir's canvas shows his friends lunching on the balcony of the restaurant, shaded by an awning and magnificent riverside plane tree.
The restaurant (still in business) welcomed many classes including bourgeois businessmen, society women, artists, Impressionist painters, writers (among them Guy de Maupassant), critics and, with a new, shorter working week -- an outcome of the industrial revolution -- seamstresses and shop girls. This diverse group embodied a new, modern Parisian society.
Today, a copy of the painting pasted on a board next to the restaurant marks the spot where Renoir would have placed his easel.
Beyond all shadow of a doubt The Phillips Collection founders, Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) and his mother, Eliza Laughlin Phillips, would have approved wholeheartedly.
As for Small, he operates almost entirely outside the mainstream of today's international concert pianists. Nonetheless his credentials and story are most impressive and clearly laid out in Roderic Dunnett's fascinating 2005 profile/interview.
Copyright © 13 August 2006
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand