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Manuel BLANCAFORT (1897-1987)
Complete piano music Volume 2
6 Short Pieces (1918-19)
Country Games and Dances (1918-20)
Intimate Songs I (1918-20)
8 Piano Pieces (1920-21)
Miquel Villalba (piano)
Rec. 4-5 January 2003, LíAuditorium, Jafre, Spain
NAXOS 8.557333 [61.29]

The Naxos series devoted to Catalan, Manuel Blancafort, a contemporary of the equally long-lived Mompou, continues with a second volume that again mines his seam of youthful pianistic melancholia. There are, itís true, some parallels with Mompou, though Blancafort lacks the better-known Catalanís exploration of Satie-esque hypnotism, counterpoint (late adopted) and a spiritual realm that embraced stillness and the mystical. Both however certainly owed much to impressionism and to Ravel in particular and this gives Blancafortís music a sense of tension though never mocking romanticism.

The Six Short Pieces fuse nature painting with impressionistic devices and have a songful lyricism that impresses. The elusive apartness of the last of them in particular, Peace at twilight, gives us a graphic example of Debussian influence. There are six Country Games and Dances and these equally compressed pieces, most around the two-minute mark in length, evoke sensibilities, feelings and gentle movement, though for all the rocking subtlety of Poc a poc (Little by little) and the affectionately drawn Reposat (Tranquillo) they tend to lack an individual stamp. More impressive is the set of Intimate Songs I where tristesse (I went to the beach to relax and the sky was greyÖruns the superscription of one of them) and flurries of tears (Llàgrimes) fuse throughout the eight settings with colour, rhythmic quirks (try Nothing can console me) and a certain deliberate, antique gravity (I have forgiven you). Thereís plenty of variety and mood setting here and real textual and technical command. The Eight Pieces, from 1920-21, are descriptive and attractive; the wind scurries of the first (with excellent chordal depth from pianist Miquel Villalba) is intriguingly voiced and the stirring hymnal concentration of the second, Església endolada) is strong in expression and a degree of noble resignation.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Roger Blackburn


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