ALBÉNIZ Piano Concerto No 1. Suite española
For Oliver Messiaen, Albéniz was ‘parmi les étoiles’, and it is easy to see the attraction of music blazing with colour and exuberance. Albéniz was no lover of pastel shades, of holding back, and an early story of his hurling a tennis ball at a mirror when as a child he was invited to play for Spanish royalty, whether true or false, is apt.
For lovers of all things Spanish (I include myself), Chandos’s generous selection is wide-ranging. You may wonder at the oddly named Concierto fantástico. More Teutonic than fantastic, it is shadowed by Schumann and Mendelssohn and you will need to look elsewhere for a truer sense of Spain, and particularly of Andalucía. The Rapsodia española, though written at the same time as the concerto, is a gloriously true tribute to the character of the south. So, too, is the Suite española, brilliantly orchestrated by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and making the piano original (even in Alicia de Larrocha’s magisterial hands) seem relatively monochrome. Here, all is wild and vivid, with bells and castanets to the fore of the whirl of events in ‘Sevilla’. And if Albéniz’s opera The Magic Opal is set in Greece, it remains entirely authentic to the Spanish idiom.
Despite formidable competition in the concerto from Melani Mestre and in the Rapsodia española from de Larrocha, Martin Roscoe’s performances are of exceptional skill and affection while the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena, finely recorded, play with a suitably heated, open-hearted commitment.