Monique Haas

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Monique Haas (October 20, 1909 – June 9, 1987) was a French pianist.

Born in Paris, she studied at the Conservatoire there with Joseph Morpain and Lazare Lévy, taking a Premier Prix in 1927. She went on to study with Rudolf Serkin and Robert Casadesus. As a performer she toured all over the world, winning much praise for her performances of 20th-century music. The composer Francis Poulenc, himself an accomplished pianist, praised her as "the adorable Monique Haas who plays the piano ravishingly", and Henri Dutilleux described her as "a celebrated interpreter of the music of Ravel"[1]

Repertoire, recordings[edit]

Like many of the French pianists who grew up in the aftermath of the First World War, Monique Haas's repertoire was characterised by an avoidance of Romantic composers and a significant representation of French music. Pieces by François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau appeared regularly on her programmes, as well as that of Mozart and Haydn. The music of Schumann was the significant exception to her neglect of romanticism, though she also included Chopin's studies in her repertoire.

However, it was as a performer of twentieth-century French music that Haas is best remembered. Her recordings of Debussy include the comparatively neglected Douze Études, which won a Grand Prix du Disque, and the Préludes. She also recorded both of the Ravel concertos, the G major twice, as well as his complete solo piano music.

She was a noted interpreter of Bartók's music, and performed his third piano concerto only a few days after its world premiere by György Sándor. Another non-French composer whose works appealed to her was Hindemith; she made a valuable recording of his Suite for Piano and Strings The Four Temperaments. She also recorded his Konzertmusik For Piano, Brass & Harp with Hindemith himself conducting.

Style[edit]

French piano players of Haas's generation were moving away from the facile and often brittle technique associated with Marguerite Long (frequently referred to as the "diggy-diggy-dee" style).[2] Haas combined the cleanness and precision associated with the older school with a warmth of tone colour that reflected the influence of Alfred Cortot. Her unsentimental readings, especially of Debussy and Ravel, give a different view of their music, presenting them as both modern and as inheritors of the tradition of Couperin and the clavecinistes of the 18th century.

Fascinating contrasts can be found between her two recordings of the Ravel Concerto in G. The earlier one, made in 1948, makes much of the work's connections with the jazz idiom of the twenties. The later recording, made in 1965, on the other hand, is far more "Mozartean", reflecting Ravel's self-confessed debt to Mozart when he wrote the concerto.[3]

Discography (selection)[edit]

  • Ravel: The Piano Concertos. Orchestre national de l'ORTF cond. Paray. Deutsche Grammophon (CD)
  • Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit, Jeux D'Eau and Miroirs - Erato Presence EPR 15552, Eglise du Liban (Paris), July 1968
  • Ravel: Oeuvres pour piano (Vol. 1) Erato Classics - 1968
  • Claude Debussy: Piano Music (Complete), The Musical Heritage Society MHS 1536/41

Private life[edit]

Monique Haas was married to the French-Romanian composer Marcel Mihalovici.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Quoted by Gerald Larner in the notes accompanying "Monique Haas: Debussy and Ravel". Erato Disques, Undated (circa 2009)
  2. ^ Louis Fourestier. See, for example, Jean-Philippe Collard in Gramophone Magazine 1997
  3. ^ Jean-Charles Hoffelé. A child of the century. Essay included with "Monique Haas: complete recordings on Deutsche Grammophon" 2006