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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (1911) [53.01]
Danzas españolas (selection) (1892-1900) [25.49] Alicia de Larrocha (piano)
Rec 4-6 December 1989, 11 April 1990 (Goyescas),  25-28 March 1994 (Danzas), American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York City
BMG RCA RED SEAL 82876 60863-2 [78.56]


Granados wrote some of the finest piano music of the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries. It rightly retains its place at the centre of the piano literature. But what attracts about this remastered RCA issue is not just the richness of the music; for Alicia de Larrocha has a special empathy with her native Spanish music. Her performances have attained a truly legendary status. Not that she is so much of a specialist, however. There have, for example. been few Mozart players of the last quarter-century who can match her insights and sensitivity.

This collection was recorded in New York between 1989 and 1994, and she is on top form throughout. That does not simply mean piano fireworks; on the contrary, the quieter, more sensitive aspects of Granados’s piano collections are among the satisfying moments to be found here. For instance, that beautifully evocative tone painting, Quejas, o la maya y el ruiseñor is haunting and atmospheric. Here also the recording is at its most effective. While there is fullness of tone and a sympathetic acoustic, the sound itself can be just a little tubby in the more sonorous climaxes.

Alicia de Larrocha has recorded Goyescas before, for both EMI (1963, originally made for the Spanish Hispavox label) and Decca (1977), and the latter recording and performance is as good as any. It is no surprise that she has become less impulsive in her approach to dynamics, phrasing and tempi as the years have passed. But great music surpasses the limitations of any one approach to performance, and Granados passes that test. Whatever the response of an individual player on a particular occasion, his music, of necessity, requires a blend of fiery technique, volatile changes of rhythm, clear articulation, atmospheric tone painting and keyboard virtuosity. All these attributes are second nature to Alicia de Larrocha.

RCA originally issued the complete set of twelve Danzas españolas, coupled with the Valses poèticos. Now six of the set complete this programme, making for a total of nearly eighty minutes of music. The point about collections of dance-based pieces is that a carefully chosen selection can generally be as satisfying as the complete series; and so it proves here. Again there is an earlier Decca recording that sets the standard; but this newer version is well worth our attention. For each item has its own special characteristics, with Spanish flavour and temperament the prime features. Again the recording is splendidly sonorous.

Terry Barfoot

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