Issue No. 719, November 2016Jurjen Vis
Nobody among my music friends had ever heard of Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956). Born in Ukraine, he was a contemporary of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostokovitch, with whom he held no professional relationships. After the Russian revolution he ended up in Paris. In 1950 he moved to New York. Between 1915-1930 (sic) he was an active follower of the mystic, philosopher and composer George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Perhaps his relationship with this guru isolated him from the world more than was good for him. Sicroff (1950) is also a follower of Gurdjieff (posthumously) but that did not keep him from devoting his energies to the Thomas de Hartmann Project, these past years.
It must be said: this is, almost without exception, gorgeous and necessary music. I find I keep reaching for this little treasure-trove of a box with songs, chamber music and piano music. De Hartmann started out traditionally and tonal, leaning somewhat on a concept he called ‘Folklore Imaginaire.’ Devastatingly beautiful and often very moving. Through the years his idiom turned mildly bi-tonal and towards the end even dissonant. In this regard, he went much further than Prokofiev. De Hartmann is a wonderful composer for the piano and voice. Is it a surprise? He was a talented pianist, his wife a wonderful soprano.
A special mention must be made of the wonderful musicians who have committed themselves to this Labour of Love. First of all, Sicroff himself and then the two sopranos Claron McFadden and Nina Lejderman. Two very different voices that seem to complement each other beautifully. Among the instrumentalists there are many Dutch players. What will the future bring? Orchestral works and opera? Acknowledgement?
I would have loved to give this a 15, or a 20.