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
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.
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",
Lace says. However, "Frederic Mompou" is not a mistake,
but the right name, in Catalan, of the composer.