MOMPOU Cançons i Danses. Paisajes. Scènes d’enfants
One needn’t know much of the piano music or many of the songs by Federico Mompou to recognise his distinctive lyric gift. His combination of sensual languor, a seemingly inexhaustible harmonic palate, deep folkloristic roots and the air of delicate intimacy make his niche in Spanish music – and, indeed, in 20th-century European piano music – unique. The fact that a considerable body of music, hitherto unknown, has come to light in recent decades adds a titillating sense of discovery to his oeuvre. Small wonder that, older advocates like Rubinstein and Larrocha notwithstanding, we seem to be in a veritable golden age of Mompou interpretation: witness Stephen Hough’s highly acclaimed recording (Hyperion, 9/97), Jenny Lin’s inimitable 2011 collection (Steinway, 8/11US), Arcadi Volodos’s Sony Classical album (8/13), and the series of Jordi Masó (Naxos) and Martin Jones (Nimbus), to cite but a few.
Another recent contribution – and a distinguished one – is Luis Fernando Pérez’s new Mirare disc. He brings to this music an inerrant sense of proportion, conveyed with exquisitely apt sound at the Steinway that seems as natural as speech. A flexible rhythmic spine supports all the textures, maintaining the line even in the most leisurely of tempos. The textures themselves are luxuriant despite their transparent simplicity. The engineers have captured everything with remarkable subtlety.
Pérez writes in his charming booklet notes that he considers the Cançons i Danses the most important of Mompou’s piano pieces. He plays all of them written for solo piano (No 13 is for guitar, No 14 for organ) with a dreamy nostalgia that is irresistible. Dating from 1921 to 1961, with No 15 from 1978, they serve as an index of Mompou’s creative development. The three Paisajes, five Scènes d’enfants and one of the Música callada bring formal and affective variety to the programme. These deeply personal, lovingly reverent performances of fascinating music make this a disc that yields fresh pleasure with each repeated listening.