Susan Merdinger and Steven Greene, Duo Pianists
Music for One Piano, Four Hands
Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Ravel
Produced by Sheridan Music Studio
Recorded in August 2014
Steinway B Piano, Courtesy of Steinway Piano.
Recording Engineer: Ed Ingold
Graphic Designer: Marc Schoenberg and Susan Merdinger
FRENCH FANTASY CD Program Notes:
Travel with us to late 19th and early 20th century France, a land of Fairy Tales and Fables, Princesses and Castles, Lullabies, Waltzes and Marches, and a menagerie of the most interesting of animal species- including Pianists! These French works for piano duet represent delightful music for children composed with simplicity and charm, eloquence and sophistication. Following in the European traditions of composers such as Schumann, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Bizet, Saint-Sae¨ns, Fauré and Ravel drew upon literary and artistic inspiration for these collections of piano music miniatures which have become greatly admired by children and adults alike. This CD is dedicated to our own three children, our parents, and the child within us all.
Camille Saint-Saëns: Les Carnaval des Animaux- Carnival of the Animals
Carnival of the Animals has become one of the most beloved works for piano duet, two pianos and chamber ensemble and two pianos with full orchestra. Comprised of 14 short pieces portraying different animals, Saint-Saëns was not particularly proud of this work which he composed in 1886, and refused to have it published or performed during his lifetime, with the exception of The Swan- one of the most famous of all melodies performed by cellists. His portrayal of different types of animals utilizes techniques of imagery and imitation with creative use of figuration and orchestral colors, even in the piano versions. There is great humor, mockery and sarcasm in many of the pieces, including the L’Elephant which contains quotes from Berlioz and Mendelssohn , and Tortoises, which quotes from Offenbach's "Can-Can" in an exceedingly slow fashion. Hints of Mussorgsky’s own Pictures at an Exhibition come through in Poules et Coqs and Le Coucou. Pianistes mocks the Czerny exercises so many pianists dislike practicing, while pitting two pianists against each other highlights the level of competition and comparison of virtuoso pianists already common in the 19th century. The Finale is a brilliant conclusion which combines all the themes from the previous thirteen vignettes as well as quotes from the famous French Folk Song, Ah! Vous dirai-je maman, known as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This performance is a transcription for One Piano, Four Hands, by Lucien Garban.
Gabriel Fauré: Dolly Suite, Opus 56
The Dolly Suite for piano duet was composed by Fauré́ between 1893-1896, for the daughter of his mistress, Emma Baldac, known as "Dolly". Each piece commemorates a special person, pet, event or birthday in Dolly's life. Berceuse is a lullaby or cradle song with a beautiful lilt and haunting melody. Messieu Aoul was a nickname for her brother, Raoul, and is a lively dance-like piece in 3/4 time with shifting accents. Jardin de Dolly is a lyrical piece in E major with a sense of reminiscence and nostalgia. Ketty-Valse is a lively portrait of the Baldac's dog, Ketty. Tendresse is the most modern and chromatic piece of the set, with unusual harmonic shifts that foreshadow the later impressionistic and contemporary music of French composers such as Ravel. The Pas Espagnol is a fast dance with imitation of castanets in the opening thematic motive.
Maurice Ravel: Ma mère l'Oye- Cinq Pieces Enfantines- Mother Goose Suite
Originally premiered in 1910 by the Societe Musicale Independante as a piano duet composed for two young children, this collection of five short pieces is based on several popular fairy tales- Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb, The Green Serpent. The Empress features a whole-tone pentatonic figuration and gong-like sonorities which so colorfully depicts the music from East Asia, found so appealing by French Impressionists like Ravel and Debussy. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite is magical and mystical in its melodic and harmonic constructs and sonorous beauty, and has delighted audiences in both its original and orchestrated versions.
Deriving from a common French musical background, these composers share much of the same traditions and attention to atmospheric beauty and color. Note how Ravel makes use of canonic imitation in the third piece, Laideronette, as Faure does in the middle section of Tendresse, while Saint-Saens utilizes this same technique to great effect in the opening Introduction and in the Poules and Coqs. Listen to the gentle arpeggiation figuration in Saint-Saens’ The Swan, which Faure also employs in Jardin de Dolly. The difference between these three composers, of course, lies in their conceptualizations and harmonic language. All three works contain some of the most beautiful melodies and inventive characterizations of popular tales and tails.
About the Performers:
Acclaimed Duo Pianists Susan Merdinger and Steven Greene have been performing together since they first met as graduate students at the Yale School of Music in 1984. Dubbed “The Dynamic Duo”, they won First Prize in the Westchester Conservatory Chamber Music Competition and were Semi-Finalists in the Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. They have been featured soloists in the Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos and Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals with several orchestras, and regularly perform in concert together on one and two pianos. Their first Two Piano CD entitled “The Dynamic Duo” was recently released on CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon, and features works by Saint-Saens, Stravinsky and Milhaud. Merdinger and Greene are married and have raised three children, Stefanie, Sarah and Scott, as professional musicians, who perform together as “The Five Greenes". Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger, (Piano Prima) has been internationally acclaimed in prestigious newspapers and journals for her stunning performances. Among her many honors, Merdinger is a First Prize Winner of the 2012 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, and the 2013 International Music Competition of France, and is a Winner of the Dewar’s Young Artists Award in Music and the Artists International Young Musicians Competition. In 2014, Ms. Merdinger was awarded Silver and Bronze Medals in the Global Music Awards for her CD’s Carnival and Soirée. Merdinger is a frequent Visiting Artist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has an active career as a soloist and chamber musician. Ms. Merdinger received her education and training at Yale College, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Fontainebleau School of Music, France. She is on faculty at the Summit Music Festival in New York and is Artistic Director of Sheridan Music Studio. Steven Greene, (Piano Seconda) served as the Organist and Assistant Music Director for the Alpine Community Church in New Jersey for ten years. He has performed solo organ and piano recitals in prestigious churches and venues such as Grace Church in New York City, and has performed with the choral group Mastersingers USA, as a violinist with the Highland Park Strings and as a sought-after accompanist in Chicago. Mr. Greene has also simultaneously enjoyed a long, distinguished full-time career in banking and finance, and is currently a Vice President with US Bank in Chicago. He holds degrees from Amherst College, Yale University and Indiana University.