THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Wednesday, May 19, 97i
Page Two THE MICHiGAN DAILY Wednesday, May 19, 1971
Announcing Short Way Line's
Weekdays between Weekdays
5:15 PM. LV ANN ARBOR AR 9:35 P.M.
5:20 P.M. MICHIGAN UNION 9:30 P.M.
5:40 P.M. YPSILANTI 9:10 P.M.
6:10 P.M. PLYMOUTH 8:45 P.M.
6:25 P.M. NORTH VILLE 8:35 P.M.
6:40 P.M. LIVONIA 8:20 P.M.
(7 MILE & MIDDLEBELT)
6:50 P.M. NORTHWEST DETROIT 8:10 P.M.
(7 MILE & TELEGRAPH)
7:00 P.M. SOUTHFIELD 8:00 P.M.
(TELEGRAPH & 12 MILE)
7:30 P.M. AR PONTIAC LV 7:40 P.M.
INFORMATION CALL 662-5511
Strange piano this way comes
By DONALD SOSIN
Those searching for something
out of the ordinary in jano mu-
sic will find it in a new Colum-
bia release entitled Funeral
March for a Papagallo and other
grotesqueries of Alkan. (M 302-
34) The album is art of Ray-
mond Lewenthal's Romantic Re-
vival Series, dedicated to dig-
ging up forgotten masterpieces
(?) of the 19th century. He has
recorded works by Henselt,
Scharwenka, and Anton Ruben-
stein, all of whom enjoyed popu-
larity in their day, but- whose
works have fallen out of the
Lewenthal's first album of
works by Alkan came out in 1965,
following the successful reintro-
duction of Alkan's musi; to New
York concert audiences. The disc
included large pieces, such as
Aesop's Banquet from the Etudes
in Minor Keys, op. 39; the Bar-
carolle, and Quasi-Faust. These
showed Alkan to be a master of
piano writing, if not a first-rte
composer. His themes are fre-
quently banal, and are often
reminiscent of the more simplis-
tic of children's songs (The Eecn-
sy Weensy Spider comes to
mind), giving his music a cloy-
ing quality which is pronably one
of the reasons it has not achieved
Yet the new release demands
listening. Alkan had a unique
sense of humor, comparble to
Satie's and Ives' in some ways,
although his music is far remov-
ed from the worlds that either of
those gentlemen inhabited. Any-
one who would write a 35-page
piano piece and call it "Sona-
tine" must be considered some-
what curious. And the use of tone
clusters, wildly assymetrcal
phrases, and peculiar harmonic
turns are notable: they foreslh.-
dow music that was not to be
written for more than fifty year.;
Of all the works on the two re-
cords, the Funeral March is the
most eccentric. It is scored for
three oboes, bassoon and choi
(also organ, which is3not used
here).- The instruments begin a
plaintive chant, and if it is a fun-
eral procession, one can see the
pallbearers smothering laughter.
A cadence is reached, whereupons
the tenor intones, "As-tu de-
jeuner, Jaco?" the French equiv-
alent of "Polly wanna cracker?"
He is answered by the bass,
about seven octaves below. This
really has to be heard to be ap-
preciated. Lewenthal won't say
who the bass is, but I have my
guesses. The choir (from the
Metropolitan Opera Studio) then
elaborates on this text, and the
result is the most ridiculous par-
ody on a dirge that has ever been
The aforementioned Sonatine
takes up much of the first side,
The first movement is rather or-
dinary; the scherzo is catchier.
Three short pieces follow. The
longest, "The Drum Beats in the
Fields," is the only work on the .
disc to have been recorded be-
fore. Lewenthal says it is "one
of the bitterest, most vehen'ent
and sarcastic commentaries on
the folly of war . ." He exagger-
ates-it may have been biting for
its time, but it has too many
weak moments to fulfill his pro-
mises, and for sarcasm it is no
match for Country Joe.
The flip side offers the Fun-
eral March, and e i g ht short
works. Alkan's devices work bet-
ter here than in his more pro-
longed essays. "The Little Dev-
ils" is a charming vignette. The
"Etude in A flat" sounds elemen-
tary, but is a quick way to pull
a tendon or two, so wide are the
stretches. The Scherzo is won-
derful, and the five pieces fol-
lowing it each have their own
Lewenthal's playing is impec-
cable. He carries off all of the
most tortuous passages with non-
chalance, and the more lyrical
passages are treated with sensi-
In a bonus record included with
the LP Lewenthal discusses the
composer's devious chromati-
cisms and makes some parallels
with works of Mahler-here he
tries too hard, as he toes in the
jacket notes. He makes clear his
infatuation with Alkan, but over-
states his case. The etudes are
good, but not as tight as Chopins.
His harmonies are, dinerneath
the chromatic lines, pretty basic,
asd rooted in the 18th century.
They break no new ground.
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