Etudes & Variations
Joanne Polk’s new album on the Steinway & Sons label features 15 etudes by the prolific 19th century composer, Louise Farrenc.
French pianist and composer Louise Farrenc commanded an important presence in the musical life of 19th century France.
On February 7, 2020, Steinway & Sons released Louise Farrenc: Etudes & Variations for Solo Piano (STNS 30133) from pianist Joanne Polk. This album highlights the works of prolific female composer Louise Farrenc, one of a handful of 19th century women who enjoyed success during their time. Farrenc rose to prominence in the male dominated world of 19th century music by virtue of her talent and her family’s encouragement and support. Farrenc’s gift for music was discovered early and fostered throughout her life by lessons in theory and teachers at the Paris Conservatory. Eventually she began publishing music with the help of her husband, Jacques Artistide Farrenc, who owned a music publishing business in Paris.
Farrenc’s compositions were well received, and in 1842, Farrenc became the first female professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory. Throughout her distinguished career she composed a large amount of music in many genres, from chamber works to symphonies, all of which were published and performed regularly in Paris and beyond.
Among the most influential of her works is a collection of 30 etudes written in major and minor keys in 1839. This collection was favorably received in the Parisian music press in 1840 and would go on to be adopted by the Paris Conservatory as required piano repertoire in 1845. As was typical of etudes at that time, Farrenc’s compositions were designed to target technical studies and build the expressiveness of the player. Featured on this record are 15 selections from Farrenc’s works in this genre.
Sets of piano variations made up a large part of the compositional output and concert programs of most major pianist-composers of the Romantic era, some of which feature variations or paraphrases of melodies drawn from popular operas of the day. Two sets on this album highlight Bellini’s Norma and Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots respectively. Another set of variations on this recordng that requires great pianistic virtuosity is Air Russe Varié, which begins with a “Preludio” and proceeds to a minor-mode folk melody and variations.
“The music of Louise Farrenc has been taped before, but never quite so well as in Joanne Polk’s sample of her solo piano music...”
New York Times [Best Classical Music of 2020]
“This well-engineered and thoughtfully programmed release is first choice for anyone seeking an introduction to Farrenc’s solo piano output.”
“Despite its obscurity, Farrenc’s music should never be dismissed as secondary. There is evidence of fine creativity, matched here by an equally fine performance.”
The Whole Note
“Farrenc’s music is firmly in the mid-19th-century Romantic virtuoso-piano tradition of Liszt and Chopin, even to the extent of including crowd-pleasing paraphrases of (or, variations upon) opera themes or arias by Bellini and Meyerbeer. All of which pianist Joanne Polk presents with facility, fluidity, dispatch, and élan.”
Louise Farrenc: Etudes & Variations for Solo Piano / Joanne Polk • STNS 30133
Release Date: 02/07/2020
Recorded May 15 – 17, 2019 at The Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York
Produced and Engineered by Steven Epstein
Executive Producer: Jon Feidner
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Photo of Joanne Polk: Jeffrey Langford Photography
About the Artist
Pianist Joanne Polk received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music Degrees from The Juilliard School, and her Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from Manhattan School of Music. In 2014, Joanne Polk was named as one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year in an article titled, “Profiles in Courage.” Ms. Polk’s profile focused on her work promoting the music of women composers.
Ms. Polk recently completed a five-city, three-week concert and master class tour of Taiwan and China. As well, in 2019, two of Ms. Polk’s CDs, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn and her previous Steinway & Sons release The Flatterer: Piano Music of Cécile Chaminade, were included on New York City’s classical radio station WQXR’s Essential Piano Recordings. Polk is a member of the piano faculty of Manhattan School of Music, and is an exclusive Steinway artist.
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.