> MOMPOU Piano Works Vols 1 and 2 [IL]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Frederic MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Piano Works Vol 1

The street, the guitarist and the old horse

Gitanes I and II (two pieces describing gypsies)
The little blind lady
The barrel organ player

Scenes d’enfants:

Cris dans la rue
Jeux sur la plage
Jeunes filles au jardin

Cançons I Danses I – IV
Préludes Nos. 5 and 8
Remei Cortes Ayats (piano)
Recorded in December 1987

PAVANE ADW 7192-2 [49:11]
Piano Works Vol 2
Cançons I Danses VII-XIV

The Hermitage
The Shepherd

Impressions intimes:
Planys I, II, III, IV (Plaintes)
Ocell triste (melancholy bird)
La Barca

No. 1 Dans le style romance
No. 2 Energiquement
No. 3 Lentement et trés expressif
No. 4
No. 6 Pour la main gauche
No. 7 Palmier d’étoiles
No. 9 Languido
No. 10 Moderato
No. 11 Moderato espressivo
No. 12 Cantabile
Remei Cortes Ayats (piano)
(Recorded Brussels April 1998)
PAVANE ADW 7408 [75:26]


Experience Classicsonline

Federico (note the proper, accepted Spanish spelling, and not as given in the very sparse Pavane sleeve notes that cannot even begin to rival those for rival recordings especially the Hyperion album [see footnote]) Mompou I Dencausse was born in Barcelona where the music of the music hall and the sounds of his grandfather’s bell foundry were formative influences. He spent two years studying at the Paris Conservatoire (from 1911) and then returned to Paris in 1921, where he was to live until the Nazi occupation two decades later.

Mompou’s music is ethereal and enigmatic. One can only take the descriptions in their titles as very rough guides for these evocations are very personal and often dream-like. As Stephen Hough says in his eloquently written booklet notes for his rival recording [Hyperion CDA66963 that includes Cançiones y danzas 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8 and Preludes 1, 5, 6, 7 and 9], "There is no development of material, little counterpoint, no drama, nor climaxes to speak of; and this simplicity of expression – elusive evasive and shy – is strangely disarming." Mompou’s music is unique (although occasionally one detects influences of, say, Debussy, Satie, Scriabin et al., but these are minimal). The music has an appealing childlike innocence and purity. Again quoting Hough, "When asked once how to play his music the composer replied, "It’s all so free." Indeed it is but not just free of rhythmic constraints and structural rules; it is free from affectation, posing, fashion and fads.

This freedom of course allows for a wide variety of interpretations. And therefore the critic can only go on personal preference. I must therefore come clean and say that I was not overly impressed with Remei Cortes Ayats’ readings on these two albums; for me, they are too careful there is little feeling of spontaneity or that innocent charm and joy that rival pianists bring to this lovely music. Instead, I urge readers to consider Hough’s recital and the wonderful Alicia de Larrocha recording (RCA Victor 09026 62554 2) that includes all 14 Cançions y danzas together with Preludes 5, 6, 7 and 11. There is also a recording by Mompou himself, made in 1950, of his Jeunes filles au jardin; El carrer, el guitarrista I e vell cavall; La fuente y la campana and Cancions y danzas Nos 5, 6 and 8 on a very interesting EMI "Composers in Person" CD (EMI 7 54836 2) which also includes Granados, Falla and Nin piano compositions played by these composers. There is also an ambitious Mompou concert on the Naxos label.

Looking at these rival recordings: Hough’s interpretations have more sophisticated grace and refinement suggesting the boulevards of Paris; de Larrocha, not surprisingly, prefers to accent Spanish rhythms more strongly, and Mompou adds his own inimitable style, slightly tougher and with a further dimension of almost primitive mystery.

Charming elusive piano music played by Ayats with too little charm and spontaneity. Consider rival versions like: Stephen Hough, Alicia de Larrocha or Mompou himself.


Ian Lace


MusicWeb is grateful for the following information

As you must be aware, Catalan is (as Spanish) an official language in Catalonia, where Mr. Mompou was born. In Catalan, the Spanish name "Federico" is written "Frederic", as stated in the CD that Mr. Lace is reviewing. Obviously, Federico is the "accepted Spanish spelling", as Mr.
Lace says. However, "Frederic Mompou" is not a mistake, but the right name, in Catalan, of the composer.

Yours faithfully,

Xavier Fàbrega


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