Jean Cras (22 May 1879 – 14 September 1932) was a 20th-century French composer and career naval officer. His musical compositions were inspired by his native Brittany and his sea voyages. His teacher was Henri Duparc and his mentor was Chausson and Franck.
Quatre Danze: Danza morbida, Danza scherzosa, Danza tenera, Danza animat is a set of four dances composed in 1917.
Danza Tenera, the third of the set is dedicated to his daughter Isaure. It is in the key of D-flat major and opens in simple triple rhythm. It is in the style of late Romantic. The beginning page sounds like a slow waltz and gives the impression that the piece may be a simple lullaby.
The lyricism of Duparc’s works has its influence in the opening melody line. The texture thickens from en dehors at the end of the first page, and the velocity picks up slowly in the right-hand by the 16-th note passages. From Un peu pleu lent onwards, both hands are playing thick harmonies, portraying slight turbulence in the sea. A hymn set in the key of B-major can be found in the Lent et calme secton, where the spirit is meditative and contemplative. The piece ends with thick sonorities where a motive from the hymnal section is repeated. Throughout the piece are many agogic sections marked by Cedez, and performance directions such as tre fondu’ to communicate Cras’ intentions of likening the piece to the movements of bodies of water.
This piece reminds me of Debussy’s Engulfed cathedral. The thick chords that is the basis for is most of Debussy’s piece can be found beyond the third page of Cras’. Melody lines of both pieces are clear throughout. Cras’ opening has a more endearing and lyrical line while Debussy’ is mysterious and slightly foggy and hidden. There is also a greater variety of textural differences in Cras, and rhythmic and meter changes.
The first time I’ve ever come across any of Cras’ works was at a piano recital. I was in the audience of a live performance of Danza Tenera and walked away with the opening melody engrained in my mind for a long time. The hymnal section of the piece is exceptionally beautiful and calming to listen to. Jean Cras’ Four dances would be a set to include in my late romantic French repertoire.