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Spanish Piano Music Vol.2: Turina, Falla, and Mompou Martin Jones  NIMBUS NI 5619/23 [6 hrs 10 mins]
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This second box offers a generous selection of lesser-known music. Joaquin Turina (1882-1949) was advised by Falla and Albeniz to introduce a more Spanish flavour into his music and it represents the archetypal traditional Spanish style from which contemporary Spanish composers have been anxious to detach themselves (q.v. my report on the Spanish music festival in Strasbourg, Seen&Heard October 1999).

Taken in groups as published, the pieces are most enjoyable, but I would not recommend playing the Turina CDs straight through. It is good to have on CD a body of pianistic, melodic piano music which is likely to be totally unfamiliar to those who invest in this bargain box. Some are of moderate difficulty, others extremely virtuosic, e.g. the Sonata pintoresca of 1922. There are nine groups and 35 separate pieces in this generous selection, many of them with exotic and enticing titles. Martin Jones relishes them all.

Manuel de Falla produced less piano music and I would advise skipping the first six undistinguished early pieces recorded here. After those, you will have a pleasurable three quarters of an hour of listening. I was sorry that instead of those he did not find room for some of Oscar Espla's piano music. The well known Four Spanish Pieces of 1902-08 are not unduly taxing to play. Two memorial Homenajes for Debussy and for Dukas are dense and harmonically rich. Fantasia Baetica is Falla's showpiece, very exciting and drawing upon all Martin Jones' flair and pianistic skill.

My greatest pleasure in this set came, however, from the two discs devoted to Federico Mompou, who lived for 93 years until 1987, but wrote only a small corpus, mainly consisting of small piano pieces of utmost refinement, endlessly agonised over and revised. There is a naivety which reminds one of Satie, but without the joke element of the latter. The 14 numbered pairs of Songs and Dances (1921-1962) are his best known compositions, and Martin Jones finishes with thirteen of them (I wonder what happened to No 13, which he omits as, too, does Jean-Francois Heisser in his excellent Mompou CD for Erato, 4509-98540-2). For me, the discovery of the whole set is Mompou's ten Preludes (1927-51), 27 minutes of fresh and unpredictable invention, well worth a place in the regular piano repertoire. And anyone who has learned the piano and, for sure, played the little Chopin Prelude, No 7 in A, will enjoy Mompou's Variations sur un theme de Chopin (1938-57 !) which end with a Galop and Epilogue. They do not stray far from the original, and ought not to be forgotten during Chopin's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Good notes by David Threasher and good recorded sound. Well worth adding to your collection.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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