Weissenberg: Six Arrangements of Songs Sung by Charles Trénet

The fine French songwriter and singer Charles Trénet (1913-2001), whose winsome melodies and pointed lyrics almost define the very essence of the French cabaret ballad, enjoyed a long career that peaked from the 1930s to 1950s. Six of Trénet’s songs appeared in piano arrangements on an album from the late 1950s called Mr. Nobody Plays Trénet. Eventually, and fortunately, Mr. Nobody revealed himself as the eminent pianist Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012). Marc-André Hamelin recalls:

The moment I was introduced to this recording by a friend, I was anxious to play the arrangements myself. But since I had no idea at the time whether Weissenberg had ever written them down, I had to create a score. Luckily, the whole experience of transcribing the songs was pleasant. . . the great clarity of Weissenberg’s playing made a potentially arduous task significantly easier. . . Some years later, I received a surprise email from Weissenberg’s youngest daughter María, containing scans of four of these six arrangements, in Weissenberg’s own hand! These manuscripts proved to be extremely illuminating in many ways; most importantly, they revealed that Weissenberg didn’t always stick to what he’d written.

The combined efforts of Weissenberg and Hamelin were recently published by Muse Press.—Scott Foglesong

Scott Foglesong is a Contributing Writer to the San Francisco Symphony program book.