French composer and pianist Jean Wíener is well known for his elegantly written and magnificently open scores based on the forms of American popular song and jazz. He was taught the piano by Gabriel Fauré and attended the Paris Conservatory with none other than Darius Milhaud and Arthur Honneger. He and Milhaud were deeply influenced by the jazz idiom (so much so that the pair founded, along with Jean Cocteau the first jazz club in Paris). Pianist Marcel Worms attempts in his long look at Wíener to showcase this influence but also to reveal the breadth and depth of a seemingly minor French composer. This disc reveals what this artist, in the '20s, was trying to accomplish; it's the same thing that composer such as Philip Glass, John Adams, Gavin Bryars, and others are trying to do today -- break down the barriers between classical composition and popular song. These piano works are the compositions that became Wíener's "musical salad," the place where art met life and strolled with it down the boulevard for a glass of wine. Gorgeous French chansons meet ragtime and Jelly Roll Morton and Eric Satie in a cocktail made for the world. Worms presents the "Deuxieme Sonatine" from 1928, with its third jazz movement, and the infamous "Reve" from the same period. There is also the "Syncopated Sonatine" from 1921; "One Step (From Villages Blanc)" from 1926; "3 Moments of Music" from 1980, his final work; his two blues tunes from 1950; his 1925 piano sonata; and the legendary "3 Danses" from 1955. This is as delightful and profound a collection, as one is likely to find, full of surprises and tenderness with a lightness and sincerity of approach -- in composition and in Worms' brilliant interpretation -- that scoffs at the overt obviousness and earnestness that seems to weigh serious music on the side of the boorish and pretentious. Works for Piano is a delight from beginning to end.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek