Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene | French Fantasy

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French Fantasy

by Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene

Global Music Award Gold Medal CD: A musical journey to late 19th and early 20th century France, a land of Fairy Tales and Fables, Princesses and Castles, Lullabies, Waltzes and Marches, and a menagerie of the most interesting of animal species!
Genre: Classical: Keyboard Music
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Carnival of the Animals: I. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:55 $0.99
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2. Carnival of the Animals: II. Hens and Roosters
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
0:47 $0.99
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3. Carnival of the Animals: III. Swift Animals
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
0:44 $0.99
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4. Carnival of the Animals: IV. Tortoises
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:31 $0.99
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5. Carnival of the Animals: V. The Elephant
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:20 $0.99
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6. Carnival of the Animals: VI. Kangaroos
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
0:50 $0.99
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7. Carnival of the Animals: VII. Aquarium
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:03 $0.99
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8. Carnival of the Animals: VIII. Persons With Long Ears
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
0:51 $0.99
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9. Carnival of the Animals: IX. Cuckoo in the Middle of the Wood
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:24 $0.99
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10. Carnival of the Animals: X. Aviary
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:17 $0.99
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11. Carnival of the Animals: XI. Pianists
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:05 $0.99
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12. Carnival of the Animals: XII. Fossiles
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:24 $0.99
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13. Carnival of the Animals: XIII. The Swan
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:24 $0.99
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14. Carnival of the Animals: XIV. Finale
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:14 $0.99
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15. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: I. Berceuse
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:27 $0.99
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16. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: II. Messieu Aoul
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:45 $0.99
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17. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: III. Jardin De Dolly
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:34 $0.99
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18. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: IV. Ketty-Valse
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:29 $0.99
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19. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: V. Tendresse
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
3:24 $0.99
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20. Dolly Suite, Op. 56: VI. Pas Espagnol
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:57 $0.99
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21. Mother Goose Suite, M. 60: I. Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
1:27 $0.99
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22. Mother Goose Suite, M. 60: II. Tom Thumb
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
2:29 $0.99
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23. Mother Goose Suite, M. 60: III. Laideronnette- Empress of the Pagodas
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
3:06 $0.99
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24. Mother Goose Suite, M. 60: IV. Conversation of the Beauty and the Beast
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
4:04 $0.99
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25. Mother Goose Suite, M. 60: V. The Fairy Garden
Susan Merdinger & Steven Greene
3:09 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
FRENCH FANTASY CD: Winner of the 2014 Global Music Awards Gold Medal
MERDINGER AND GREENE: First Prize Winners of the 2017 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition- Professional Duo Piano Category.
REVIEWED IN FANFARE MAGAZINE, CLASSICAL CANDOR, AUDIO-VIDEO CLUB OF ATLANTA.
Music for One Piano, Four Hands
Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Ravel
Recording Engineer: Ed Ingold
CD Design: Marc H. Schoenberg, Susan Merdinger
Produced by Sheridan Music Studio
Steinway "B" Piano, Courtesy of Steinway Piano Co.
Susan Merdinger is a Steinway Artist.

Travel with us to late 19th and early 20th century France, a land of Fairy Tales and Fables, Princesses and Castles, Lullabies, Waltzes and Marches, and a menagerie of the most interesting of animal species- including Pianists! These French works for piano duet represent delightful music for children composed with simplicity and charm, eloquence and sophistication. Following in the European traditions of composers such as Schumann, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Bizet, Saint-Sae¨ns, Fauré and Ravel drew upon literary and artistic inspiration for these collections of piano music miniatures which have become greatly admired by children and adults alike. This CD is dedicated to our own three children, our parents, and the child within us all.

Camille Saint-Saëns: Les Carnaval des Animaux- Carnival of the Animals
Carnival of the Animals has become one of the most beloved works for piano duet, two pianos and chamber ensemble and two pianos with full orchestra. Comprised of 14 short pieces portraying different animals, Saint-Saëns was not particularly proud of this work which he composed in 1886, and refused to have it published or performed during his lifetime, with the exception of The Swan- one of the most famous of all melodies performed by cellists. His portrayal of different types of animals utilizes techniques of imagery and imitation with creative use of figuration and orchestral colors, even in the piano versions. There is great humor, mockery and sarcasm in many of the pieces, including the L’Elephant which contains quotes from Berlioz and Mendelssohn , and Tortoises, which quotes from Offenbach's "Can-Can" in an exceedingly slow fashion. Hints of Mussorgsky’s own Pictures at an Exhibition come through in Poules et Coqs and Le Coucou. Pianistes mocks the Czerny exercises so many pianists dislike practicing, while pitting two pianists against each other highlights the level of competition and comparison of virtuoso pianists already common in the 19th century. The Finale is a brilliant conclusion which combines all the themes from the previous thirteen vignettes as well as quotes from the famous French Folk Song, Ah! Vous dirai-je maman, known as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This performance is a transcription for One Piano, Four Hands, by Lucien Garban.

Gabriel Fauré: Dolly Suite, Opus 56
The Dolly Suite for piano duet was composed by Fauré́ between 1893-1896, for the daughter of his mistress, Emma Baldac, known as "Dolly". Each piece commemorates a special person, pet, event or birthday in Dolly's life. Berceuse is a lullaby or cradle song with a beautiful lilt and haunting melody. Messieu Aoul was a nickname for her brother, Raoul, and is a lively dance-like piece in 3/4 time with shifting accents. Jardin de Dolly is a lyrical piece in E major with a sense of reminiscence and nostalgia. Ketty-Valse is a lively portrait of the Baldac's dog, Ketty. Tendresse is the most modern and chromatic piece of the set, with unusual harmonic shifts that foreshadow the later impressionistic and contemporary music of French composers such as Ravel. The Pas Espagnol is a fast dance with imitation of castanets in the opening thematic motive.

Maurice Ravel: Ma mère l'Oye- Cinq Pieces Enfantines- Mother Goose Suite
Originally premiered in 1910 by the Société Musicale Independante as a piano duet composed for two young children, this collection of five short pieces is based on several popular fairy tales- Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb, The Green Serpent. The Empress features a whole-tone pentatonic figuration and gong-like sonorities which so colorfully depicts the music from East Asia, found so appealing by French Impressionists like Ravel and Debussy. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite is magical and mystical in its melodic and harmonic constructs and sonorous beauty, and has delighted audiences in both its original and orchestrated versions.

Deriving from a common French musical background, these composers share much of the same traditions and attention to atmospheric beauty and color. Note how Ravel makes use of canonic imitation in the third piece, Laideronette, as Faure does in the middle section of Tendresse, while Saint-Saëns utilizes this same technique to great effect in the opening Introduction and in the Poules and Coqs. Listen to the gentle arpeggiation figuration in Saint-Saëns’ The Swan, which Faure also employs in Jardin de Dolly. The difference between these three composers, of course, lies in their conceptualizations and harmonic language. All three works contain some of the most beautiful melodies and inventive characterizations of popular tales and tails.

About the Artists:
Acclaimed Duo Pianists Susan Merdinger and Steven Greene have been performing together since they first met as graduate students at the Yale School of Music in 1984. Dubbed “The Dynamic Duo”, they won First Prize in the Westchester Conservatory Chamber Music Competition and were Semi-Finalists in the Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. They have been featured soloists in the Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with several orchestras, and regularly perform in concert together on one and two pianos. Their first Two Piano CD entitled “The Dynamic Duo” was recently released on CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon, and features works by Saint-Saëns, Stravinsky and Milhaud. Merdinger and Greene are married and have raised three children, Stefanie, Sarah and Scott, as professional musicians, who perform together as “The Five Greenes". Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger, (Piano Prima) has been internationally acclaimed in prestigious newspapers and journals for her stunning performances. Among her many honors, Merdinger is a First Prize Winner of the 2012 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, and the 2013 International Music Competition of France, and is a Winner of the Dewar’s Young Artists Award in Music and the Artists International Young Musicians Competition. In 2014, Ms. Merdinger was awarded Silver and Bronze Medals in the Global Music Awards for her CD’s Carnival and Soirée. Merdinger is a frequent Visiting Artist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has an active career as a soloist and chamber musician. Ms. Merdinger received her education and training at Yale College, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Fontainebleau School of Music, France. She is on faculty at the Summit Music Festival in New York and is Artistic Director of Sheridan Music Studio. Steven Greene, (Piano Seconda) served as the Organist and Assistant Music Director for the Alpine Community Church in New Jersey for ten years. He has performed solo organ and piano recitals in prestigious churches and venues such as Grace Church in New York City, and has performed with the choral group Mastersingers USA, as a violinist with the Highland Park Strings and as a sought-after accompanist in Chicago. Mr. Greene has also simultaneously enjoyed a long, distinguished full-time career in banking and finance, and is currently a Vice President with US Bank in Chicago. He holds degrees from Amherst College, Yale University and Indiana University.

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Reviews


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John J Puccio-Classical Candor

French Fantasy CD by Merdinger and Greene- Duo Pianists
The first item Merdinger and Greene play on the program is The Carnival of the Animals by composer, organist, conductor, and pianist Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). It's a fourteen-movement suite that the composer wrote in 1886 originally for two pianos and nine or ten other instruments, although we usually hear it these days played by a full orchestra. Nevertheless, hearing Ms. Merdinger and Mr. Greene playing it together on one piano makes a splendid argument for the smaller arrangement.

Because the movements are little tone poems describing various animals, it gives Merdinger and Greene a chance to show off their command of nuance and shading, which they display with consummate skill. Surprisingly, perhaps, Saint-Saens was at first reluctant to publish his suite, thinking it was perhaps too lightweight and unsophisticated. Calmer heads prevailed, and the composer relented. The way Merdinger and Greene approach the music, you can see why the public has loved it so much, and the duo bring out all the color and fun of the pieces. I especially liked "The Kangaroo" and "Aquarium," and the rollicking "Finale." And who doesn't like "The Swan"?

Ms. Merdinger plays the lead piano part (primo piano) and Mr. Greene the accompaniment, so to speak. Together, they produce performances of the utmost confidence and beauty, often sounding like a whole of bank of pianos blazing away, other times creating a mood of whispered quiet. Their work sounds polished and pure and, most of all, touching. Although we hear no overt sentimentalism in their playing, we do find a good deal of heart in it.

Next, in keeping with the gentle, fairy-tale spirit of the album, we get the Dolly Suite, Op. 56, written by composer, organist, and teacher Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) between 1893 and 1896 specifically for piano four hands, although the French conductor and composer Henri Rabaud scored it for full orchestra in 1906. However, the original four-hands arrangement heard here is probably the more-charming choice. Faure wrote the music for Dolly, the daughter of his mistress, and each little movement pictures a person, thing, or event in Dolly's life. Most it is friendly and attractive, starting with one of the loveliest lullabies you'll hear, performed with strong feeling and affection by Merdinger and Greene. Sweet and tender are the keynotes of their rendition.

Lastly, we hear the Mother Goose Suite by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), which he wrote as a piano four-hands duet in 1910. He orchestrated the work in 1911 and expanded it to a ballet in 1912, but, again, the original piano version seems the most delightful of all. Ravel based his suite on fairly well-known fairy tales, and Merdinger and Greene help them come alive in vivid, characterful style. The playing, like the music, is vaguely nostalgic, mostly atmospheric, and always magical. The suite makes a fitting conclusion to a program that is consistently enchanting.

The sound is close enough to provide good detail yet not so close that it appears hard, clangy, or bright. He has picked up a modest degree of room resonance to make the piano seem entirely natural, too: dynamic, to be sure, but smooth, round, and warm. This may not be as analytical a piano sound as some recordings you'll find, but it is as realistic as any you'll hear.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
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Phil Muse - Audio-Video Club of Atlanta

French Fantasy CD by Merdinger and Greene, Duo Pianists
Performing on a 7-foot Steinway B ideally suited for the music at hand, the team of pianists Susan Merdinger and Steven Greene give us a sparkling recital of French music for the four hands repertoire. On the program are choice works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Gabriel Fauré’,
and Maurice Ravel that educators have frequently used for the music appreciation of children. The smoothly integrated performances by spouses Merdinger and Greene have a perfect balance and sense of timing. As engineered by Ed Ingold, the CD sounds very beautiful.

The program begins with Carnival of the Animals, which Saint-Saëns refused to have published during his lifetime, lest he be disregarded as a “serious” composer. But he was sufficiently fond of it that he suspended work on his “Organ” Symphony for the sake of this delicious
display of musical whimsy (“Mais c’est si amusant!” he would explain as his only defense). And indeed it is amusing, with the sort of humor a bright child might more easily grasp than a dull adult. It also affords the pianistsa splendid warming-up exercise for the entire program in Marche Royal du Lion. With its bold opening tremolo, scales moving in opposite directions, low octave runs, and the fortissimo at the end, the performers’ fingers are well-limbered by the end of this opening number.

That, mind you, is just the beginning. Thereafter, all the resources of the keyboard are brought into play as Saint-Saens, who was himself a virtuoso pianist, displays his menagerie. Chickens peck, a rooster crows, a cuckoo sounds its two-note obstinate from the depths of the wood. The Kangaroos are, well, rather jumpy, in patterns of hopping fifths. Glissando-like runs characterize the denizens of the aquarium, while the music replicates the “hee-haw” of donkeys in “Personages with Long Wars”, with the suggestion that Saint-Saens is also sending up music critics, who characteristically bray at poor innocent composers. Spike chords and octave jumps portray the fossils in the museum, proving there’s life in the old bones yet! The high point of the suite is “The Swan”. With its sublime theme heard over rippling sixteenths and rolled chords, it is one of music’s great moments.

The childhood whimsy continues in Fauré’s Dolly Suite, written for the daughter of his mistress Emma Bardac, known as “Dolly.” The six pieces conjure up images of the pets, dolls, and occasions that brighten the life of a little girl. With the subtlest of touches, Fauré’ evokes the peacefully sleeping child (Berceuse) and the whirling movements of her pet dog, Ketty (Kitty-Valse). The suite concludes with a lively little Spanish dance (Le pas espagnole).


Finally, we have Ravel’s ever-popular Mother Goose Suite in its original setting for piano duet. One can almost hear Ravel’s future orchestration in the evocative atmosphere and color of the keyboard writing (I actually prefer the four-hand version). In five movements –Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Empress of the Pagodas, Conversation of Beauty and the Beast, and The Fairy Garden – the music conjures up the enchanted world of Charles Perrault and other authors of French fairy tales. My favorite piece is the third, with its lively animation and use of a pentatonic scale to create an appropriate oriental mood.
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