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Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Piano Music Volume 5

Suite Espagnole, Op 47, T 61 (1886) [35.20]
Sonata #4, T 75 (1887) [17.45]
Suite ancienne #2, Op 54, B T 66 (1887) [7.21]
Arbola Azpian (Zorzico), T 84 (1893) [4.40]
Pavana Capricho, T 48 (1882) [3.48]
Miguel Baselga (piano)
Steinway D grand piano. Piano technician, Manuel Laga Sopena.
Recorded at the Auditorio y palacio de congresos, Zaragosa, Spain, April 2004
Notes in English, Castellano, Deutsch, and French. Photo of the artist.
BIS CD-1443 [70.05]

Previous Releases

volumes 1-4 are on BIS CD-923, -1043, -1143 and -1243

Comparison Recordings:

Alicia De Larrocha, piano Decca 448 191-2

Artur Rubinstein, piano (1 piece in "Rubinstein Collection Vol. 18") RCA/BMG CD

As I said when I reviewed Volume 4, this is not merely great pianism, this is ravishingly beautiful pianism, magnificently recorded, conforming at the same time to the most rigorous standards of musicianship and responsibility to the text. One of the first things one learns is that Albéniz’s work was quite consistent, and there is no decline in quality as we move from early to late music.

As with so many famous Spanish musicians, Albéniz was Catalonian. Number three from Suite Espagnole is "Sevilla," one of Albéniz’s most popular piano works and you have never heard it more beautifully or seductively played than here. As with other great pianists, we have the feeling that the hammers of the piano are actually the ends of the artist’s fingers and that he is directly caressing the strings, as one would the strings of a guitar. Number five from Suite Espagnole is "Leyenda" another of Albéniz’s most popular and frequently played pieces. In contrast to most pianists, Baselga makes this less of an imitation of guitar sound and plays the work as a true piano study. Through this we become aware of Baselga’s awesome musico-dramatic intelligence. Few guitarists could play the work this fast anyway. You will want to keep your other favourite performances of this work, but you won’t want to miss this one.

Rubinstein’s recordings of Spanish music reflect a showman’s skill at effective drama. DeLarrocha’s performances have more reflective insight into the content of the music and remain an authoritative and scholarly standard. Her earlier recordings are showing their age in their dated sound quality. Her newer digital recordings for BMG show that her mind, her heart and her fingers are still everything they ever were. But Baselga loves this music and his ravishingly sensual, masculine style sweeps away all objections. I would love to hear him play Ravel. In Volume 4, his jacket portrait strove for a gaucho-hunk image, but here he is the bespectacled scholar, the intense young Euro-adult, mirroring in his various physical incarnations the shifting moods of his musician’s view of Albéniz the colourist.

Paul Shoemaker

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