Mel Bonis: Complete Music for Solo Piano, Volume One

Catalogue No: TOCC0361
EAN/UPC: 5060113443618
Release Date: 2023-10-06
Composer: Mel Bonis
Artists: Mengyiyi Chen

Mélanie Bonis (1858–1937), a fine pianist herself, composed some 150 works for solo piano, publishing them with her first name shortened to ‘Mel’ to disguise the fact that she was a woman – while she lived among the French haute bourgeoisie as Mme Domange. They sometimes show the influence of Chabrier, and have points of contact with the music of Chausson, Debussy and Pierné, who had been fellow students at the Paris Conservatoire. But they also reveal an individual approach to rhythm, harmony and tone-colour – and it’s clear that her conventional exterior hid a lively sense of fun, her many miniatures for children perhaps influenced by her own experience as a mother.

Mengyiyi Chen, piano

Listen To This Recording:

  1. Barcarolle in E-Flat Major, Op. 71 (publ. 1906) (4:40)
  2. L’escarpolette, Op. 52 (publ. 1901) (4:23)

Les Femmes de Légende (publ. 2003)

  1. No. 1 Mélisande, Op. 109 (1922) (2:40)
  2. No. 3 Ophélie, Op. 165 No. 1 (1909) (5:00)
  3. No. 6 Salomé, Op. 100 No. 1 (publ. 1909) (4:26)
  4. No. 5 Phœbée, Op. 30 (publ. 1909) (3:21)
  5. Romance sans parole, Op. 56 (publ. 1905) (2:18)
  6. Mazurka, Op. 26 (publ. 1896) (3:59)
  7. Il pleut!, Op. 102 (publ. 1913) (2:34)
  8. Méditation, Op. 33 (publ. 1905) (3:08)

Cinq petites piéces (publ. 1929) (9:17)

  1. Une flûte soupire, Op. 117 (1:59)
  2. Berceuse triste, Op. 118 (1:41)
  3. Boston Valse, Op. 119 (1:17)
  4. Agitato, Op. 120 (1:33)
  5. Cloches Iointaines, Op. 121 (2:47)
  6. Fauré Clair de Lune, transc. Bonis (publ. 1933) (3:12)

Scènes enfantines, Op. 92 (publ. 1912)* (14:01)

  1. I. Aubade (2:10)
  2. II. Joyeux réveil (1:46)
  3. III. Cache-cache (1:37)
  4. IV. Valse lente (1:19)
  5. V. Marche militaire (1:57)
  6. VI. Frère Jacques (2:08)
  7. VII. Bébé s’endort (1:39)
  8. VIII. Carillon (1:25)

Cinq pièces musicales (publ. 1897) (14:43)

  1. No. 1 Gai printemps: Impromptu, Op. 11 (publ. 1889) (2:52)
  2. No. 2 Romance sans Paroles, Op. 29 (3:16)
  3. No. 3 Menuet, Op. 14 (publ. 1889) (3:46)
  4. No. 4 Eglogue, Op. 12 (publ. 1889) (3:08)
  5. No. 5 Papillons, Op. 28 (1:41)

*First Recordings

3 reviews for Mel Bonis: Complete Music for Solo Piano, Volume One

  1. :

    ‘This disc offers twenty-nine individual pieces with the longest Ophélie, Op 165 No 1 just 5:00. Of the remaining 28, 18 are sub-three minutes, so the essence of Bonis’ keyboard art would appear to be the finely-crafted miniature. […] the significance of this new disc is the promise of a complete survey. Volume One is entrusted to Mengyiyi Chen who plays on a Steinway Model D. I had not heard Chen’s playing before, but she is clearly well-attuned to Bonis’ subtle sound-world and likewise the engineering provides her with an attractive soundstage with clarity and a natural balance suiting this music well. Notable too how consistent the engineering is across seventeen or so months of sessions. […]

    A richly rewarding survey by any measure.’

    —Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International

  2. :

    ‘This is the kind of adventure Toccata has taken me on before. They find an excellent, often lesser-known pianist inspired to take on a big, multi-disc recording project of heretofore neglected piano music. The end result, as here, is both enjoyable and enlightening and includes some world premiere recordings as well.

    Chen (b. 1993) is perfect for this job. She got her undergraduate degree from the Wuhan Conservatory and then her MM and DMA degrees in the US. She has all of the sensitivity required for these early 1900s pieces. Her shaped, legato musical lines make Bonis’s melodies sing; and she doesn’t shy away from the energetic, demanding writing also found here.

    There is a sense of discovery all through this program, from the simple Scènes Enfantines to the more expansive and demanding Femmes de Legende to the late Barcarolle. Bonis made a transcription of Fauré’s `Clair de Lune’ in a manner that hearkens back to the great things Liszt did with Schubert songs. The addition of the voice part and a few appropriate pianistic touches to the piano part make this a piece I plan to learn. The recording is very good and the booklet essay goes into detail about every piece. It includes a complete list of Bonis’s piano music with the manuscript date as well as the publisher and date. Chen has her work cut out for her to complete this series, and I look forward to the next release.’

    —Jim Harrington, American Record Guide, February 2024

  3. :

    ‘Bonis’s music is attractive, warmhearted, and tuneful. […]

    [Mengyiyi Chen’s] clarity is impressive in the rapid-fire notes of Il pleut!

    As usual with Toccata, the program notes are exemplary, as is the recorded sound.’

    —Henry Fogel, Fanfare Magazine, February 2024

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