During the first three decades of the 20th century, Paul Juon’s name could often be found in concert programs. Certain uncompromising music critics, never short of a double-edged epithet, recently described Juon as the ‘missing link’ between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. And although this kind of characterization is the type that would normally kindle the interest of musical archeologists, half a century after his death almost all traces of him have completely disappeared, for apart from brief reviews of his work and passing references in encyclopedias there is no literature about his life and work. Over his work, just as over his life, hangs the shadow of homelessness: not Swiss, not Russian, not German; not Romantic, not Modernist, not Folklorist. And yet he was a little of all these; and more, because he was a sincere and humanly impressive personality.
Although he shared his year of birth with Alexander Scriabin (1872) and was just two years older than Arnold Schoenberg, he neither overcame tonality, nor came in any way close to the twelve-tone system. Chronologically speaking, he belonged to that generation of painters, musicians and writers who created the foundation for Modernism, but he remained to the last committed to the traditions of the late-Romantics. Swiss folk music did not interest him; however, his musical language would be unthinkable without the influence of the Russian folk songs and dances that belonged to his environment for many years. If the music of this outsider, one who often seemed askew in his time, is today performed and heard with pleasure all over the world, then this is to be explained in considerable part by his ‘domesticated’ Russian-ness. His metrical experiments, which are given prominence time and again in the scholarly literature, and which supposedly connect him to Stravinsky, nevertheless deserve less attention than the emotional qualities of his music. It is full of powerful emotions, eminently expressive, possessing intellectual depth and enchanting beauty of sound.
This World Premiere recording included the very first opus Juon published in 1898 and the very last one composed for solo piano in 1933, and therefore the evolution of his style and music language could be easily observed.