Author Topic: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered  (Read 5148 times)

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Offline Ten thumbs

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Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« on: November 17, 2007, 11:33:23 AM »
I haven't traced any reference to this composer on this board. I discovered her from a report on 'Les Compositrices en France XIXme Siecle' by Florence Launay, which covers some twenty composers. Unfortunatley my French is not good. There are recordings of Mel Bonis's music but do any members have first hand experience of its qualities please? There is a full list of her extensive works in mel.bonis.com
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2007, 04:40:50 AM »
Clearly there is a great blank in people's knowledge here. I quote from the Furore catalogue concerning the piano music.
'One gets the impression that Mel Bonis may have intended to give a summary of musical development, not quoting historical styles but adapting the past through her personal tone and translating it into contemporary musical language. It seems that she thus prepared the ground for something new. In fact her contribution to the development of French impressionism is significant.'
It looks as though I will have to take the plunge unaided though few of her orchestral works appear to have been recorded.
 
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2007, 03:14:02 AM »
Part 1:
Teaching oneself to play the piano as a child indicates a high degree of musicality, especially when one's parents disapprove. First pick out the tunes, then find out how to harmonise, lastly go on to improvisation. With an instrument that was no doubt out of tune it is easy to believe the reports that Mélanie's mother would bang the piano lid down on her daughter's fingers and tell her to stop the noise. In spite of all this, Mélanie was admitted to the Conservatoire at the age of 18 and that makes her worthy of investigation.
I am waiting for CDs of her instrumental sonatas and piano quartets on which she felt her reputation would rest. Her orchestral works are not large and at present I can trace no recordings. Firstly, I have four volumes of her piano pieces from Furore.
As I suspected, these pieces show a very refined artistry. They are full of invention and subtlety, demanding careful interpretation. I can see that they will keep me busy for a while to come but the rewards will be great. Next in line will be her concert pieces, which obviously will be more technically demanding.
From a piano repertoire point of view, I would place Mélanie's music alongside that of Fauré. Surely it is more worthy of inclusion than Fibich and I would happily swap her for Satie.

A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2007, 11:09:43 AM »
Part 2:
Still waiting to hear her chamber music but I now have a collection of Mélanie's songs from Doron of Switzerland, further evidence of her versatility. 'Le chat sur le toit' is a real gem. It seems a shame that opinions of the 'grand masters' are so inflated that such a highly gifted composer remains unknown.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2007, 03:17:13 PM »
Part 3:
As I had been informed, the two piano quartets are indispensable to anyone who has an interest in chamber music. The first, first performed in 1905, is the one that astonished Saint-Saens for being the work of a woman. Yes, it certainly is powerful, dynamic and convincing. The second is perhaps more remarkable as it comes from the pen of a bed-ridden old lady approaching her seventieth year. I think she can be forgiven for being unable to abandon tonality (Mélanie was 60 in 1918) but in her old age she seems to have feared little else, using complex rhythms and dissonances as though she was born to them.
I won't say more but this music is much more than you can possibly imagine. Get these quartets now from voiceoflyrics.com. You won't regret it.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2008, 10:03:11 AM »
Well, nearly a year ago, Ten thumbs started several threads on this French female composer, Mel Bonis (1858-1937), who shortened her first name (Melanie) and used her maiden last name - married name was Melanie Domange.

Just received my first disc of several of her chamber works (shown below along w/ a youthful picture of her) - Piano Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 performed by the Mozart Piano Quartet; these Opus numbers of 69 & 124, making her quite prolific, however, she's quite forgotten and little recorded music seems to be available - so I hope others might make some recommendations -  :)

My purchase was prompted by a short but excellent review of the recording in the latest issue of Fanfare, and quoted below; a MusicWeb Review is also available -  8)

Finally, there is a site dedicated to this composer HERE - in French, but an English translation is an option, which provides a more extensive biography - she should be much better known & recorded -  :-\

Quote
The name Mel Bonis won’t ring a bell with many people. Mel, short for Mélanie, was evidently chosen to obscure the actual sex of the composer. This flamboyant Parisian woman grew up in a typical 18th-century middle class environment that had no ears for her musical talent at all. However, after that talent had been discovered by a musical family friend, she became one of the most prolific and creative artists of her age (she wrote some 300 works altogether). This new release shows us that history still preserves a few hidden treasures for us. It proves a real pity that Bonis’s music never broke through and remained virtually unknown to the world until today.

Most obvious in both piano quartets is Bonis’s extreme care for musical structure—the concentrated and virtuosic ways she works out themes and contrapuntal development reminded me most of Cesar Franck’s style. Also, her virtuosic use of color and shades proves that this was a very capable composer.

The Mozart Piano Quartet is one of those rock-solid German ensembles; four gentlemen who play excellently, although they are not always overly inspired. Intonation is first-class throughout, and all members seem to enjoy this repertoire a lot. As always with MDG, the sound is natural and well balanced.

Listening to this disc has been a real pleasure, and it has shown that the French Romantic era brought forth some exquisite gems. For those who are looking for something new in an excellent performance and good sound, this release is highly recommended.
Bart Verhaeghe


   

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2008, 03:51:16 PM »
Well, after making the previous post and listening to the chamber music disc shown, I decided to search Amazon for more recordings of the works of Mel Bonis - could find only two additional ones!  Boy, this gal had about 300 compositions attributed to her, and only 3 discs available dedicated to her - may be others?

But, I'd appreicate any comments on the two others shown below (flute works & songs):

   

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2008, 09:08:23 AM »
Well, after making the previous post and listening to the chamber music disc shown, I decided to search Amazon for more recordings of the works of Mel Bonis - could find only two additional ones!  Boy, this gal had about 300 compositions attributed to her, and only 3 discs available dedicated to her - may be others?

But, I'd appreicate any comments on the two others shown below (flute works & songs):

   

The music on these discs is quite varied because of events in the composer's life that interrupted her work. La joueuse de flute is noteworthy for the inclusion of the septet (piano plus 2 flutes and string quartet), which is an excellent illustration of the composer's soundworld |(gorgeous section in the slow middle part and a very lively conclusion). Scenes de las Foret is also available in its other arrangement |(flute, viola and harp) on 'Hommage to Debussy' (available from cdBaby). The flute sonata is not on this disk but is available from voiceoflyrics and also on a new compilation entitled I believe, 'Pan et Syrinx'.
The songs include 3 settings from 'Chansons de Shakespeare', which I find particularly strong. Also 'Le chat sur le toit', which is great fun, a madrigal, 2 melodrames with spoken voice and a delightful duet 'The Bluebird'.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2008, 11:43:41 AM »
The music on these discs is quite varied because of events in the composer's life that interrupted her work. La joueuse de flute is noteworthy for the inclusion of the septet (piano plus 2 flutes and string quartet), which is an excellent illustration of the composer's soundworld............

T t - thanks for the comments - think that I'll try that Hanssler flute CD next - will add to my wish list!  :D

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2008, 11:48:33 AM »
Well, the Chamber Flute Music disc below just arrived yesterday w/ Tatjana Ruhland (flute) & Florian Wiek (piano) - wide and varied collection of flute/piano works, but also additional instruments in trio combinations, and a septet w/ two flutes & violins; the opus numbers of these works range from Op. 59 to Op. 189 - tremendously prolific composer but the small handful of CDs shown in these posts are about the limit of offerings on Amazon.  The music is beautiful and the Hanssler sound excellent.

The sculpture on the front is La Joueuse de Flute or the 'Flute Player' by Camille Claudel (1864-1943), surprisingly similar dates and parallel artistic courses for the two French ladies - quite an appropriate selection.  :D


 

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2008, 02:47:24 PM »
Glad you enjoyed that.
Look up www.voiceoflyrics.com
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2008, 03:14:53 PM »
Glad you enjoyed that.  Look up www.voiceoflyrics.com

T t - looks like you & I are the only ones participating in appreciating this 'very overlooked' French composer!  ;) :D

I'm glad to see by your link that there ARE other recordings available of Melanie's compositions - not sure 'how' available these are to me in the USA (i.e. in regards to price & shipping) - plus, would like to know the quality of the recordings? 

Hopefully, some of the more major labels will 'pick up' on this composer w/ some 'new' offerings - probably not  :-\ - but hoping! Dave  :)

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Mélanie (Mel) Bonis Discovered
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2008, 03:22:16 AM »


Hopefully, some of the more major labels will 'pick up' on this composer w/ some 'new' offerings - probably not  :-\ - but hoping! Dave  :)
Hear, hear!
At least the discographie on the Mel-Bonis website is growing. As I mentioned the flute sonata is on another disc entitled 'To Pan and Syrinx' available from prestoclassical in the UK. I haven't heard this and you may be sated with flute music at present but its nice to see Bonis amongst more accepted composers, in this case Debussy, Martinu, Roussel, Enescu and Schubert.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.