Granados/Falla/Mompou/Nin

Author: 
Lionel Salter

Granados/Falla/Mompou/Nin

  • (12) Danzas españolas, Valenciana (Calasera)
  • (12) Danzas españolas, Melancolica (Danza triste)
  • Goyescas, El pelele
  • (7) Canciones populares españolas
  • (El) Amor Brujo, Song of the Will o' the Wisp
  • Soneto a Córdoba
  • Concerto for Harpsichord and Five Instruments
  • Scènes d'enfants, Jeunes filles au jardin
  • Suburbis, El carrer, el guitarrista i el vell cavall
  • Cançons i danses, Cançó: El testament d'Amelia; Dansa: Un pobre946)
  • Cançons i danses, Cançó i dansa: original (1952)
  • Cançons i danses, Cançó i dansa: original (1942)
  • Paisajes, La fuente y la campana (1942)
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Tonada de la niña perdida
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Montañesa
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Malagueña
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Granadina
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Canto andaluz
  • (20) Cantos populares españolas, Polo

Spain was a happy hunting-ground for EMI's Composers in Person series, for with few exceptions all its leading composers in the early part of this century were excellent pianists. Albeniz a virtuoso in the Liszt class, unfortunately recorded only on piano rolls, but the just slightly younger Granados (who founded his own piano academy, taken over after his death by his pupil Frank Marshall, who in turn taught Alicia de Larrocha) is represented by some 1912 discs. Despite their surface noise (very heavy in an improvised ramble on ''El pelele''), his qualities are evident, particularly in a light, airy and crisply rhythmic ''Valenciana''.
The major part of the present disc is given over reasonably enough, to Falla, an indisputably greater composer than the others and a conspicuously first-class keyboard player (he had beaten Marshall in the 1904 piano competition that he had won at the same time as the opera competition for which he had written La vida breve). His playing of the Harpsichord Concerto is masterly, especially of the Lento, which, exemplifying his plea that it should be taken as slowly as humanly possible, is enormously atmospheric and evocative of great bells during the Corpus Christi procession; and the whole performance, with the harpsichord aussi sonore que possible and in the foreground, should be studied by all those later harpsichordists who have misguidedly recorded the work on tonally inappropriate eighteenth-century-type instruments. (A good deal of the composer's 'singing along' is audible.) Falla is equally outstanding in the seven folk-songs accompanying Maria Barrientos (a phenomenon who at the age of 12 gained her diplomas in both violin and piano and conducted a symphony of her own composition). These are revelatory interpretations, obviously sanctioned by Falla—the ''Cancion'' unusually slow, the skirls at the ends of phrases in the ''Jota'' detached each time. The forward placing of the singer underlines her pungency of tone, vocal coloration and admirably clear enunciation, but also, less happily, some flatness in ''Asturiana'' and ''Nana''; and in the austere declamation of the Soneto a Cordoba she sounds shrill.
Ninon Vallin's bright, clear voice is artlessly attractive in the folk-song settings of Nin, a virtuoso pianist who is evidently enjoying himself in the ''Malaguena''. In a totally different style, far more introspective and subtle, is the playing of Mompou. He takes the dance of the fifth Canco i dansa slower than usual, gives a fine lift to the sixth (dedicated to Rubinstein), and is utterly seductive in the sentimental tune of ''Jeunes filles au jardin'', played very slowly and freely. A few tape prints-through are a pity. (Incidentally, the piece from his Paisajes is called not La fuente y la campana (''the fountain and the countryside'') but … y la campana (''and the bell'').'

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