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Six Esquisses romantiques (Marie Jaëll)




1. Les Ombres – 2. Toccata – 3. Métamorphoses – 4. Fantasca – 5. Contraste – 6. Le Tournoi


Marie Jaëll composed her Esquisses romantiques (“Romantic Sketches”) in 1883, shortly after the passing of her husband Alfred. Two sources reveal her hesitation over the title of both the work and its six movements: a manuscript bears the title Six Préludes; and on the first page of the score, the publisher Auguste O’Kelly indicated “Conte burlesque” (“Burlesque Tale”) for No. 3, and “Chant du passant” (“Song of the Passer-by”) for No. 5. While the collection is presented as a series of typically romantic, and typically French, character pieces, their tonal organization reflects a desire for unity: C minor (No.  1), C major (No. 2), F minor moving towards A flat major (No. 3), C minor (No. 4), A flat major (No. 5) and C major (No. 6). The title of the fifth piece, “Contraste” (“Contrast”), could apply to the work as a whole. After the dark, passionate tone of “Ombres” (“Shadows”), Jaëll introduces an impish “Toccata”, with its mercurial staccato. In the third piece, she plays on the transformation of a motif (hence its title), jerky in the first part, but cantabile in the central episode and coda. “Fantasca”, which recalls some East-European dance, increases the number of mood changes and sees its texture fleshed out from page to page. After beginning in a triple time peppered with syncopations, “Contraste” probably owes its title to a change in the writing of the central part, with its accompaniment in arpeggiated chords. The Esquisses conclude with the brilliant fanfares of “Le Tournoi” (“The Tournament”), where the piano’s symphonic scope evokes past times of chivalrous heroes.

    Person - 1
  • JAËLL, Marie (1846-1925)
  • Themes - 3
  • Women composers
  • Piano – La « pièce de genre » pianistique
  • Piano – Fin-de-siècle Romantic Piano Music