Not long ago I first heard about Amedée Méreaux (1802-1874) a composer which was friend of Chopin and who wrote, among other works, a set of 60 Etudes Op.63 which have been described by the pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin as: ”(…) is just hair-raising and makes Alkan look like nothing”.
I admit I have never been too impressed by the “difficulty” in Alkan’s music, so the statement would not impress me normally.
(Several people claim the difficulties of playing some Alkan pieces in the “right tempo” and it seems they never checked the real “right tempo” as written in the score - for example, as in “Le Preux”, where “dans un bon mouvement” and “carrément” do not means “presto” in any sense!)
Anyway I have already decided to check these Mereaux pieces and had my own impressions: some are very beautiful pieces, some are big challenges, some are standard etudes and some very technical works.
Of course, as in any decent set of etudes, it is expected to have technically demanding pieces in its group, and Méreaux did a splendid job concerning the possibilities of hand movements in them. When you pay attention to the score you can notice there are some of the most virtuoso romantic pieces ever seen.
Often on internet, thanks to people who produce MIDIs using the score (which by the way is a nice way to promote unknown music when you are not able to play it), we can see people calling these pieces “inexpressive”, “uninteressant” or "sub-zero" in musical terms – of course this superficial opinion is based in the lack of experience with the music and in some cases, like in Hamelin’s opinion, it is the result of that famous ‘The fox and the grapes’ fable - “Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.”
The truth is that some of the etudes by Mereaux are so “unmusical” as are the famous and beloved Chopin’s ones (Yes! what is the difference of them to Chopin's Op.10 No.1 or Op.10 No.2?) – the difference is: Mereaux is far harder to play.
It is normal to find pianists playing Chopin etudes now, mostly of them do this because it is a tradition, and of course I agree these etudes are wonderful, anyway they are a starting point (!) for a concert pianist, not the final one as some are promoting around.
No one is really a piano virtuoso playing Chopin etudes today. These works made history in its times and still are very useful, but the piano technique developed a lot after them and the pianists today are in most part “trained media monkeys” who lives from a marketing made long ago by the so called “golden age pianists” who often are not too related to the technical development of the piano but the ego development and the art of making money.
Despite of the long discussions one can start in these matters, the fact is that we have lazy artists and lazy public ruled by a market eager for easy money. The result is terrible for art and for the development of the instrument’s technique - We are not far/safe from some medieval minds...
Mereaux is one of these several composer who can be enjoyed or not, but mostly he is not even recognized because of the already explained facts, and that is terrible.
When I received the challenge by my new friend Kenneth Derus about recording all Mereaux Etudes I was happy to finally have the chance to make justice to such Etudes and put them in the place they deserve, recorded in a CD where people can notice these are wonderful romantic Etudes which belongs to the greatest challenges of piano playing history.
Of course, the recording was made by a request using the Youchoose Music Project, anyway in agreement with Kenneth Derus, we decided to make few tracks available from time to time in the next months, and later (during 2018) the 3 CDs with the complete set (60 Etudes) will be published by Acte Prealable.