Hyperion Records

Boum!
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Sometime in the 1950s there appeared on the Lumen label an extended play 45-rpm record called Mr. Nobody Plays Trenet. It contained unusually creative and entertaining piano settings of six songs by the French singer-songwriter Charles Trenet (1913–2001). The identity of ‘Mr. Nobody’ was kept secret until a few years ago, when it was revealed to be Alexis Weissenberg. It is easy to see why Weissenberg chose to adopt a pseudonym for this recording. At that time a serious classical pianist dabbling in such trivialities as popular song would most likely have been compromising his own career. (How times have changed. This kind of thing is welcomed, even encouraged, by record companies now.)

From the moment I was introduced to this recording by a friend, I was anxious to play the arrangements myself. But since Weissenberg never wrote them down, I had to create a score. Luckily, the whole experience of transcribing the songs was pleasant—despite my devoting an entire month to it. Anyone who is familiar with Trenet’s songs in their original form will be delightfully surprised by what Weissenberg has done with them. Unusual touches abound: in Coin de rue, an evocation of the narrator’s childhood, the listener is treated to the sounds of a barrel organ; the ‘oom-pah’ rhythm of Boum! becomes a foxtrot, while the moderately paced Ménilmontant is transformed into a headlong moto perpetuo.

from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2008

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