GRANADOS Piano Works
After her quite exceptional accounts of both Rachmaninov sonatas (8/14), Xiayin Wang turns her attention to the rather different but hardly less virtuoso world of Granados. A good programme (albeit faced with stiff competition in Goyescas), well recorded (albeit in the slightly too resonant empty acoustic of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York) and convincingly played (albeit with some reservations).
Both books of Goyescas (1909 12), as their subtitle ‘o Los majos enamorados’ suggests, are essentially sensual and/or passionate love poems, something that Xiayin Wang conveys with sensitivity and obvious affection. But, for me, there is something lacking when compared with the benchmark recordings of Goyescas, Alicia de Larrocha’s 1976 account for Decca being primus inter pares. Wang’s are, unmistakably, studio recordings, with ‘Los requiebros’ and ‘Coloquio en la reja’ rarely lifting off the page. ‘El fandango de candil’ is enchantingly done but hear how Garrick Ohlsson with less pedal more clearly defines the fandango rhythm and its persistent triplet figure – both of them, incidentally, significantly slower than the composer on a convincing 1913 Welte & Soehne piano roll (Pierian 0002). The most famous number of the set (here entitled ‘The Maja and the Nightingale’ rather than ‘The Maiden …’), though adroitly paced, is prone to exaggerated expressiveness, unlike the account by Eileen Joyce (see page 60) who, at a similar tempo, manages most touchingly to find more of Granados’s melancolico precisely by not playing the melancolico card.
The early eight Valses poéticos are played with innate charm and empathy but Stephen Hough, with more tonal variety and subtler pedalling, is even more alluring (and – a small point – observes the repeat in the Presto-Vivace No 8, which Wang does not). The two unalloyed successes come before and after these: ‘Zapateado’ (the last of the Six Pieces on Spanish Folk Songs) and the Allegro de concierto, both exhilarating and exuberant, making one regret the fact that more pianists don’t programme Granados, and exuding an infectious spontaneity more consistently in evidence than elsewhere.