MONTGEROULT Piano Sonata No 9. 12 Etudes
So far as I can see, this is the first time that Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836) has graced these pages. I don’t say all the music, on the evidence of this disc, is the work of an unknown genius but she is at the very least a fascinating and intriguingly prescient keyboard voice. Play this blind and who would you say was the composer? Cramer? Dussek? Voříšek? Her biographer, Jérôme Dorival, believes Montgeroult is ‘the missing link between Mozart and Chopin’. A moot point, but try the third of her three Op 5 Sonatas published in 1811 and it’s a reasonable claim. In any case, Chopin must surely have known her magnum opus, Complete Course for the Instruction of the Pianoforte (more than 700 pages, including 114 Études, published in 1816), and in particular Étude No 107 in D minor, a dry run for his Revolutionary Study. Here and elsewhere, Montgeroult’s music suffers from what Dorival aptly calls ‘plagiarism by anticipation’ and it sank into oblivion soon after her death.
Edna Stern deserves the highest praise for resurrecting it, and has the fleet fingers and sensitive musicianship necessary to make the very best case for it. The Sonata is well worth getting to know and some of the 12 Études she has selected are very beautiful. None outstays its welcome. What I was not convinced by was the 1860 Pleyel she plays. Its warm, soft-grained tone is attractive but often at the expense of textual clarity. I’d like to hear more of Montgeroult’s music from this artist – maybe the Fantaisie from the third volume of the Cours complet or her eight other sonatas – but on a modern instrument.