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Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Recuerdos de viaje (1886-7) (I. En el mar [04:30]; II. Leyenda [04:17]; III. Alborada [04:48]; IV. En la alambra [04:14]; V. Puerta de tierra [03:47]; VI. Rumores de la caleta [04:01] VII. En la playa [04:23])
Espagne (Souvenirs) (1896-7) (I. Prélude [06:47]; II. Asturias [03:53])
Azulejos (completed by Granados) (1909) [10:06]
La Vega, "Fantaisie espagnole" (1897) [15:32]
Navarra (fragment, completed by D. de Séverac) (1909) [06:16]
Guillermo González (piano)
rec. Real Conservatorio de Música de Madrid, 14-17 November 2004.
NAXOS SPANISH CLASSICS 8.570553 [72:35]


 

Ever since hearing one of my school friends play Albéniz’s Cordoba I have been quite an enthusiast of the music of this great Spanish Composer. However, in some ways it is quite difficult to get a handle on his works – he appears to have composed a vast number of pieces for piano – just take a few moments to check out the list in Grove to see the scale of the problem. Of course, there are a few signposts - the most popular work is quite definitely Iberia: there are some twenty-nine recordings of this masterwork along with countless examples of individual numbers from this work.cycle. Asturias, from the Suite Española is the ‘Top of the Albéniz Pops’ – but this is a bit of a cheat, for the number of recordings includes the guitar version as well as the one for piano. Most lovers of piano music will also know the unbelievably popular Espana Suite - especially Tango, Granada and Seville.

This present CD has a number of lesser known fine works that well deserve to be known to enthusiasts of piano music. Most of the workspieces were composed during the composer’s residence in Paris. Yet the longest piece is in fact the romantic, Recuerdos de viaje which was composed written while the composer was still living in Madrid.

The programme notes define well the musical difference between the works written in Spain and those in Paris. The former are typically meditations on nearby places, peoples and experiences seen through the eyes of a ‘local’ or perhaps a traveller. However the French experience allowed the composer to reflect on Spain from a distance – perhaps even occasionally with the eye of a ‘foreigner.’ Yet all his works are imbued with the spirit of Spain and form an important part of the repertoire of pianists.

The Recuerdos de viaje, Op. 71 (B 18) were composed in Madrid in 1887. The composer and his family had just moved there. Over the next few months Albéniz was to have a series of ups and downs in his professional and private life. He was successfully established as a composer and pianist in January 1886 after his momentous recital in the rooms salon of his publisher, Antonio Romero. However, just a few weeks later his daughter Blanca died. Yet the present work does not explore these events: there is no suggestion of tragedy or exaltation in these seven works.pieces. It would be wrong to suggest that they are it is simply salon music, but the purpose was to entertain rather than inform. The title of the work means, roughly, ‘Travel Reminiscences’. Some clues as to the titles of each piece may be of help to the non-Spanish speaker. En el mar was issued in London entitled On the Water. Puerta de tierra is an architectural landmark in Cadiz, Rumores de la caleta can be rendered as ‘Murmurs in the Cove’ and lastly En la playa is On the Beach.

The Espagne (Souvenirs) are not to be confused with the two Suites Españolas which González recorded in the first volume one of this edition. The present suite was composed around 1896 when Albéniz was in Paris. There are only two pieces – a Prélude and Asturias - which refers to a district in Northern Spain.

The Prélude begins quietly but soon becomes more animated: as the piece develops the Spanish mood becomes more and more evident. Yet there is a dichotomy here: the middle section of this piece leans towards dissonance and explores a language less typically Iberian. Yet somehow the two moods co-exist and after a brief protest conclude quietly. Asturias is a sad little piece. The Spanish flavour is less in evidence and it has been said that perhaps Debussy is an influence here. The music is typically restrained with the middle section being a little more complex. In all it is a truly magical piece.

Azulejos was one of the last works written by the composer – in fact it was completed by Enrique Granados after the Albéniz’s death. This is an excellent piece of music that explores a pianism quite removed from the early Spanish ‘postcard’ number. This is a valedictory workpiece that combines subtlety with exquisite craftsmanship and emotional depth. Azulejos means in Spanish ‘Tiles’ or perhaps ‘Mosaics.’ This work was to have been part of an eponymous cycle of pieces. It is one of the great works by Albéniz and deserves much more exposure. There are only two recordings of this work in the catalogue at present.

La Vega ‘Fantasie espagnole’ (1897) is a big work and is regarded by many as being the epitome of Isaac Albéniz’s mature piano style. The piece was originally conceived as a part of a cycle called ‘Alhambra’ – but this was never completed. Apparently the composer wrote, somewhat enigmatically, that ‘in this piece one can see the entire plan (vega) of Granada as contemplated from the Alhambra.." There is a perfection in this music that defies description – the more one listens to it the more one is amazed by its beauty. It lasts for nearly sixteen minutes – anything less and the listener would certainly feel short-changed!.

There are two versions of Navarra in existence- neither wholly by Albéniz.. After his death, aged 49, it was completed by the composer’s student Déodat de Severac. In later years William Bolcom did another version – the difference being that he provides a newly composed conclusion whereas de Severac just ended the piece in mid-stream. We hear the latter version here. It: it is a good piece to conclude this interesting and often moving exploration of Albéniz’s piano music.

I note that this is Volume 2 of the piano music of Isaac Albéniz.. The first included the big works – Iberia and España 1 & 2. Yet if Naxos intends to realize a ‘complete’ edition of the piano works, then there are many volumes still to come. I can only hope that this project does not go the way that a number of others have gone – I think of Liszt and Ireland.

It is essential that we have an easily available edition of this music. I look forward to subsequent releases and am confident that Guillermo González is the man to do them. For too long it has been assumed that Alicia De Larrocha - brilliant as she is - had the monopoly on Spanish piano music.

John France
I look forward to subsequent Albéniz releases and am confident that Guillermo González is the man to do them. ... see Full Review


 


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