Monique Haas - one of the great interpreters of French Music.

Monique Haas – one of the great interpreters of French Music.

Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin – Monique Haas – 1952 – ORTF, Paris –

I originally posted this several years ago on my old site. Since that site has long since been dismantled and the posts left something to be desired in the Sound department, I thought I would post this new-improved one.

A Radio recital by Monique Haas from approximately 1952 featuring Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.

Like many French pianists who grew up in the aftermath of the First World War, Haas’s repertoire was characterized 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 programs, as well as those of Mozart and Haydn. Schumann was the significant exception to her neglect of romanticism, and 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, 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.

French pianists of Haas’s generation were moving away from the facile, often brittle technique associated with Marguerite Long (frequently referred to as the “diggy-diggy-dee” style). 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.

Contrasts can be found between her two recordings of the Ravel Concerto in G. The first, from 1948, makes much of the work’s connections with the jazz idiom of the 1920s. The second, from 1965, is far more “Mozartean”, reflecting Ravel’s self-confessed debt to Mozart when he wrote it.


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