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Nin-Culmell, Roig-Francoli, Debussy, Albéniz, Granados: Adam Kent (piano), Jennifer Roig-Francoli (violin), Weill Recital Hall, New York City, 24.10.2010 (BH)


Joaquín Nin-Culmell: Selections from Tonadas, Vols. I, II and IV

Miguel Ángel Roig-Francoli: Suite Apócrifa (1979)

Miguel Ángel Roig-Francoli: Songs of the Infinite (2010, world premiere)

Debussy: “La puerta del vino” from Préludes, Book II

Debussy: “La serenade interrompue” from Préludes, Book I

Debussy: “La Soirée dans Grenade” from Estampes

Albéniz: “Jerez” from Iberia, Book IV

Granados: Danza Española No. 9, “Romántica”

Granados: “Mazurka” from Escenas Románticas

Granados: El pelele


In this appealing, intelligently constructed program called Spain without Borders, pianist Adam Kent chose works by two composers born in the 20th century, ending with three masters known for their Spanish flavors. Although Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004) was born in Berlin, his father came from Cuba. (Joaquín’s older sister was the famous diarist Anaïs Nin.) His four volumes of Tonadas were penned in the 1950s, and reflect the composer’s interest in the dances and folk songs from Spain, albeit through his own somewhat more dissonant prism. Here Kent immediately displayed some of his many strengths: clear articulation and a beautifully resonant tone. Of the nine selections from the four books, I liked “Atalá” (“Galacian Song”) which spun like some grotesque tarantella, and the final “Jota castellana” (“Castilian Jota”)—by turns lively, amusing and virtuosic.

Born in Ibiza, Miguel Ángel Roig-Francoli currently teaches at the University of Cincinnati. His
Suite Apócrifa was written in Madrid, and incorporates homages to eight different composers: J.S. Bach, Bartók, Debussy, Fauré, Satie, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Miguel A. Coria—the latter was the composer’s teacher in Madrid. Stylistically varied, the eight preludes incorporate tonality and “post-tonal idioms.” “Lírico y fluido” begins modestly but grows to almost Lisztian excess, and “Con acento francés” has a bit of Scriabin’s demonic style. Roig-Francoli’s wife Jennifer, a violinist, joined Mr. Kent for the world premiere of Songs of the Infinite, commissioned by the Foundation for Iberian Music at New York’s City University. Its five sections cover broad territory, including Bartókian rhythms, brief pentatonic excursions, and now and then, some appealingly sentimental flourishes. As the work’s dedicatee, Roig-Francoli gave the violin part the authority that it deserved, with Kent rock-steady at her side.

After intermission came well-chosen bits from Debussy’s
Estampes (“La Soirée dans Grenade”) and Préludes (“La puerta del vino” and “La serenade interrompue”), with Kent nimbly capturing the composer’s Spanish feel. Albéniz’s playful “Jerez” (from Iberia) posed no seeming challenges to the pianist’s abilities, nor did the three works from Granados that closed the program proper, such as a swaggering account of the Danza Española No. 9. Kent’s meticulously researched notes, coupled with an affable stage presence as he gave introductory material, completed this satisfying, thoughtful evening.


The hall was packed, and Spanish accents were everywhere—hardly surprising since the concert was presented by the above-mentioned Foundation for Iberian Music, and by The Consulate General of Spain in New York. Mr. Kent offered two encores, “Danza del Molinero” (“The Miller's Dance”) from Manuel de Falla's ballet El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat), and Ernesto Halffter’s catchy Danza de la Pastora, which I couldn’t get out of my head for days afterward.

Bruce Hodges

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