DE FALLA 4 Piezas Españolas. Fantasia Baetica
Garrick Ohlsson seems to be on a roll lately. He’s recording more prolifically than ever and is constantly expanding his recorded repertoire. Ohlsson may not inhabit Manuel de Falla’s sultry and exuberant piano-writing as Alicia de Larrocha or Javier Perianes do, yet he embraces the idiom with ease and fluidity, and leaves few small details unnoticed. In the Cuatro Piezas españolas, for example, Ohlsson emphasises the rhythmic kick and guitar-like flourishes in both ‘Aragonesa’ and ‘Cubana’, while generating quiet tension in the desolately lyrical outer sections of ‘Montañesa’. If Ohlsson slightly underplays the brash accents in ‘Andaluza’, he clearly relishes relentless virtuoso left-hand octaves, as one might expect from a seasoned Lisztian. Of the three pieces from El sombrero de tres picos, ‘Danza de la molinera’, stands out for the way his measured tempo allows the embellishments and flourishes to truly speak. And Falla’s brooding treatment of the ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ acquires extra gravitas and sustaining power in Ohlsson’s powerful hands.
The five pieces from El Amor brujo are less consistent: Ohlsson’s ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ is textually scrupulous yet interpretatively stiff and studio-bound, while his fast and methodical spin through ‘Canción del fuego fatuo’ hardly hints at the music’s underlying allure. But the stark Pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy (transcribed for piano by Falla from his original solo guitar score) benefits from Ohlsson’s austere precision; quite different from Segunda Danza española’s controlled abandon. Ohlsson holds the large-scale Fantasia Baetica quite well, with a keen ear for dynamic contrast and uncovering inner voices within thicker textures. That said, the greater variety of articulation and nuance in Alicia de Larrocha’s Decca recording better vivifies this magnum opus, moving it bracingly forwards. Roger Nichols provides scholarly and informative annotations, and the engineering is first-class.