GRANADOS Goyescas (Menor)
Regarding Granados and Goyescas, José Menor is as much a scholar as a pianist. In his booklet notes to this recording, he examines the text in detail, outlining discrepancies between manuscript, various printed editions and the composer’s own piano-roll recordings, while explaining his interpretative choices. For all his erudition, however, Menor’s artistry is anything but pedantic. He revels in the music’s joyous exuberance and penetrates its dark introspection, embracing the dynamic extremes and contouring the labyrinthine textures to gorgeously three-dimensional effect. In the opening movement, ‘Los majos enamorados’, Menor’s spontaneous-sounding rubatos and coaxing of inner voices are guaranteed to keep listeners on their toes. ‘Coloquio en la reja’ broods but never drags, with the climaxes heightened by Menor’s milking the harmonic tension to just short of the breaking point.
He inflects the heel-clicking rhythm of ‘El fandango del candil’ with idiomatic swagger and evocative colour. ‘La maja y el ruiseñor’ times out about a minute longer than usual, due to the pianist’s rubato leeway. Yet his constant polyphonic awareness nevertheless conveys animation and movement. Similar observations characterise the suite’s penultimate piece, ‘El amor y la muerte’ (arguably Granados’s greatest piano composition), where Menor’s hair-trigger response to the composer’s volatile dynamic shifts and his complex variety of articulations reveal something new with each rehearing.
Menor fleshes out the disc with four splendidly played works. The previously unrecorded Crepúscolo’s decorative patterns flicker like fireflies in the pianist’s hands, while his crisply dispatched El pelele rivals Alicia de Larrocha for the ‘most lively ornaments’ prize. Compared to the roundness and warmth of Garrick Ohlsson’s recent Hyperion Goyescas, IBS Classical’s closer microphone placement yields a smidgen of harshness in loud moments; nothing that a few adjustments on my amplifier’s graphic equaliser couldn’t fix. Enthusiastically recommended.