GRANADOS Goyescas. El Pelele
Granados succinctly described his Goyescas suite as a work abounding with ‘great flights of imagination and difficulties’, which, however, have not stopped an increasing number of pianists from braving its challenges on disc. Given his masterful way with York Bowen’s complex keyboard language, Joop Celis unsurprisingly navigates Granados’s labyrinthine textures with no sweat and strain, and with a beautiful, evenly modulated sonority to boot.
But he’s not the most convincing Goyescas practitioner around. Take, for example, the cycle’s pentultimate movement, ‘El Amor y la Muerte’, arguably Granados’s greatest piano piece. It’s packed with sudden dynamic extremes that Celis often flattens out. He also tends to telegraph changes in tempo, consequently smoothing over their dramatic impact. ‘Los requiebros’ is pianistically pristine, yet Celis underplays the exultant climaxes and the dazzling chiaroscuro of inner voices. The smouldering momentum of ‘El fandango de candil’ sounds matter-of-fact next to the simmering tension that Luis Fernando Pérez generates, to say nothing of Alicia de Larrocha’s benchmark recordings.
Conversely, the introspective, flamenco-like passages in ‘Coloquio en la reja’ emerge with more shape and rhythmic point. And the eloquence and linear transparency that Celis brings to the opening section of ‘Quejas, ó La maja y el ruiseñor’ makes one wonder if Granados and Fauré had been separated at birth. El pelele, of course, is Spanish through and through, and interpreted here with controlled vivacity.
Interestingly, the relatively modest technical and musical parameters of Escenas poéticas elicit more consistently inspired and organically poetic playing. Listen to the transluscent understatement of ‘Danza de la rosa’, the Berceuse’s characterful simplicity or the exquisite balances and lyrical magic that make you want to programme ‘Canción de Margarita’ in repeat mode. In short, Goyescas may get star billing, yet the Escenas poéticas walk away with top honours.