GRANADOS Goyescas MOMPOU Variations sur un Theme de Chopin
Granados’s Goyescas is more than a suite of piano pieces: it’s a road trip where one encounters a diverse succession of moods and landscapes. To guide the prospective pianist through terrains of notey and complex figurations, Granados provides copious markings that indicate subtle and specific tempo modifications, a wide dynamic palette and detailed expressive directives. Ignore them and you’ll find that the melodies won’t palpitate, the counterpoint won’t speak and the harmonies will lose one or two layers of sexiness.
The opening ‘Los requiebros’ brilliantly conveys sweeping exuberance and teasing coyness, contrasting qualities that are minimised by Javier Negrín’s headlong, generalised approach, especially in the way he skirts over the rapid filigree as if sweeping dust under a carpet. He captures the second movement’s brooding eloquence well but without the long-lined animation and idiomatically caressing rubato that Luis Fernando Pérez and Rosa-Torres-Pardo (DG download) brought to their respective recordings. Negrín fares better in his pointed and sensitively shaped reading of ‘La maja y el ruiseñor’ but his literal and occasional stiff handling of No 3’s fandango rhythms and the ghostly epilogue’s evocations of plucked guitar strings yield to Garrick Ohlsson’s more imaginatively inflected accounts. In the suite’s longest and most substantial movement, ‘El amor y la muerte’ (arguably Granados’s masterpiece), Negrín assiduously weaves the numerous tempo shifts, dynamic outbursts and reiterations of earlier themes into a fluid, fulfilling whole.
Although Granados’s standalone El pelele is traditionally included as part of Goyescas performances and recordings, Negrín offers instead Mompou’s gorgeous and witty variations on Chopin’s A major Prelude. In contrast to Alexandre Tharaud’s rippling surface elegance, Negrín probes with deliberation, notably in the 10th variation’s reharmonisation of the Chopin Fantaisie-impromptu’s central theme. The piano is recorded at close range, yet without losing tonal heft. In sum, Negrín’s Goyescas sometimes impresses, yet not enough to challenge recent contenders, let alone Alicia de Larrocha’s Decca benchmark.