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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Complete Piano Works
Disc 1
Goyescas, El pelele
Disc 2
Twelve Spanish Dances, Op. 37
Disc 3
Allegro di Concierto, Valses Poeticos , Capricho Español, op. 39, Rapsodia Aragonesa, Carezza-Vals, op. 38, Oriental, Dos Impromptus
Disc 4
Moresque y Arabe, Cuentos de la juventud, op. 1, Sardana Bocetos
Mazurka, op. 2, Barcarola, op. 45, Los Soldados de Cartón, A la Pradera, Danza caracteristica, A la Cubana, Op. 36, Escenas Poeticas, book 2
Disc 5
Escenas Romanticas, Seis piezas sobre cantos populares Españoles, Danza lenta, Aparición, Cartas se amor, valses intimos, op. 44, Libro de Horas
Disc 6
Impromptu, Op. 39, Seis estudios expressivos, Marche militaire, Estudio, Op. Posth., Elisenda, Paisaje, op. 35,
Dos Marchas Militares, Escenas Poeticas, book 1
Thomas Rajna (piano)
Recorded 1976. ADD
Full track-listing at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92283 [6 CDs: 66.35 + 55.37 + 60.06 + 75.32 + 74.27 + 54.04]

Thomas Rajna completed his cycle of Granados’s solo piano music within a year – 1976. As if to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their original appearance on CRD LPs Brilliant Classics has returned the cycle to the market-place. It’s in one slim box containing six nicely filled CDs and with extensive notes from Bryce Morrison.
Nothing could be finer. Rajna was an expert advocate for Granados’s music and though recordings since have come – and gone – his have maintained an honoured place in the memory; and now, thankfully, in the disc drawer. And this is all the more so as so few are performed in public with any great conviction, beyond the obvious Goyescas and maybe Escenas Poeticas and Escenas Romanticas.
The first disc furnishes Goyescas and his performance of the great cycle is full of poetry and a certain aristocratic finesse. Rajna is a colourist of great deftness, preferring pastel to primary maybe, but pursuing his conception with absolute fidelity and no inner contradictions. It renders his traversal rather slower than is perhaps the norm; two examples will have to suffice. Coloquio en la reja is in his hands an intense, almost sepulchral affair – very slow and measured.  And Los requiebros may well come as a surprise to those weaned on de Larrocha’s various traversals, not least the one she left the year after Rajna’s own – for Decca in 1977. It’s certainly not simply a question of tempo, of course. He tends to be less rhythmically incisive and vital than de Larrocha here, his rubati are considerably less teasing, those detonating left hand accents less pronounced. In short his is a more agreeably equable view, a more sedate one. To those who find de Larrocha occasionally overstated in this repertoire Rajna may offer a point of comparison, though I certainly wouldn’t forego her magnetic rhythmic incision and stylish personality.
The Twelve Spanish Dances are far less played than was formerly the case. No.5, Andaluza, has survived – and has been famously transcribed – but they all offer valuable things for the inquisitive performer and many a concert could be enlivened by the judicious inclusion of a brace of them. Here Rajna really comes into his own. His command is sure, his dynamics powerfully expansive, his touch splendid, and his tonal variety evocative. His surety in the second, Oriental, lies in his control of the swaying rhythm of the outer sections in the same way that he is so successful in Villanesca where he evokes the bell motifs, commands the wide octave leaps, and is sweetly pious in the lied that lies at its heart. His impetuous accelerando in the Rondella Aragonesa is judged splendidly – the correspondingly slow section equally so. In the context of the whole cycle Andaluza doesn’t sound so exceptional after all.
The third disc offers a miscellany of pieces, some admittedly not fro the top drawer. The Allegro de Concierto is rather more notable for its moments of Chopinesque reverie and Lisztian flourish than for any really personalised statement. And the Rapsodia Aragonesa sounds like a supercharged Liadov, which is not necessarily a criticism, though it does certainly imply a limitation. Carezza-Vals is generic but of more value by far is Oriental-Cancion, Variad, Intermedio y Final. This is an intensely evocative work and one that houses plenty of room for internal dramatic contrast and Iberian tang. So too do the Valses Poeticos. The second of the Waltzes encloses a beautiful melody, the third is impish and in the final waltz we return with generous cyclical warmth to the opening number. Rajna plays them with distinction.
Granados’s Op.1 is contained in a miscellaneous fourth volume and it proves to be echt Schumann. A slightly later work, Bocetos, unites two of his influences, Schumann and Chopin, though the textures and rhythmic pulse are unambiguously Iberian. Rajna reserves some real power for the culminatory chordal glory that is A la Pradera and once more parades his octaves in Danza caracteristica. Of more intimately poetic import are the Escenas Poeticas, not least the hymnal delicacy of the second, which he presents with great warmth and candour. This is a quarter of an hour cycle that, once again, should be far more often played than it is.
It’s a shame that the Escenas Romanicas are not separately tracked – the six should be. That said Rajna shows no sign of routine or flagging spirits in his poetic unfolding of this big, twenty-six minute cycle. The spirit of Chopin as so often hovers above some of the six but it’s not a suffocating influence, rather it’s a liberating one; Rajna makes no attempt to conceal the obvious, instead allowing the music to speak for itself. This it does with real force and poetry. Harmonically and colouristically this is among the greatest of Granados’s piano music. The Molto appassionato, spare and concentrated, is a particularly fine example of this but the whole cycle is a mini masterpiece. The Seis piezas consist of six, similarly untracked, dance pieces but they occupy a more generic place in the scheme of nineteenth century virtuosity – they’re certainly colourful but their merits are uneven. The three Libro de Horas are different – the rolled chords and limpidly tuneful first is impressive on its own but Rajna finds great grandeur in the song of the second - made even more active through acute left hand pointing. The third is solemn, religiose, slow and has plenty of wide acres in which one can contemplate its vistas.
The Op.39 Impromptu reminds one yet again of a free-flowing Schumannesque inheritance. It’s far preferable to the flummery and tricksy late nineteenth century games of the Seis Estudios expresivos. Much better and far more revealing is the posthumously published Estudio, which bears the unmistakeable imprint of Fauré. The three little Escenas Poeticas are warm without being pointlessly rhapsodic and Rajna brings out their evocative coloration and gentle sense of regret extremely well. This final volume ties up loose ends nicely even going so far as to overdub Rajna in the two Marchas Militares.
This is another bargain from Brilliant Classics. Performances, documentation and recording quality are all impressive. There’s no real reason to hesitate.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by William Hedley 




Complete Track Listing
Piano Works vol. 1
Los majos enamorados
Book I
1. Los requiebros [8:43]
2. Coloquio en la reja [13:42]
3. El fandango de Candil [6:33]
4. Quejas o la Maja y el Ruisenor [7:36]
Book II
5. El amor y la Muerte (Balada) [15:42]
6. Epilogo (Serenata del espectro) [8:04]
7. El Pelele [4:36]
Piano Works vol. 2
12 Spanish Dances Op. 37
1. No. 1 Galante [2:36]
2. No. 2 Oriental [2:32]
3. No. 3 Fandango [3:42]
4. No. 4 Villanesca [5:26]
5. No. 5 Andaluza (Playera) [4:41]
6. No. 6 Rondella aragonesa [2:42]
7. No. 7 Valenciana (Calasera) [4:39]
8. No. 8 Sardana [3:48]
9. No. 9 Romantica [4:24]
10. No. 10 Melancolica [4:24]
11. No. 11 Arabesca [6:09]
12. No. 12 Bolero [5:08]
Total: 55:37
Piano Works vol. 3
1. Allegro de Concierto [8:45]
2. Valses Poeticos [14:47]
3. Capricho Español Op. 39 [5:25]
4. Rapsodia Aragonesa [6:50]
5. Carezza-Vals Op. 38 [6:52]
6. Oriental-Cancion Variada Intermedio y Final [10:45]
7. Dos Impromptus: [6:00]
Total: 60:06
Piano Works vol. 4
1. Moresque y Arabe [6:40]
2. Cuentos de la juventud Op. 1 [15:57]
3. Sardana [4:42]
4. Bocetos [12:54]
5. Mazurka Op. 2 [2:08]
6. Barcarola Op. 45 [3:10]
7. Los Soldados de Cartón [1:35]
8. A la Pradera [3:05]
9. Danza caracteristica [5:30]
10. A la Cubana Op. 36 [4:15]
Escenas Poeticas
11. Recuerdo de Paises Lejanos [3:51]
12. El Angel de los Claustros [4:12]
13. Cancion de Margarita [1:45]
14. Suenos del Poeta [6:47]
Total: 75:32
Piano Works vol. 5
1. Escenas Romanticas [26:23]
2. Seis piezas sobre cantos populares Españoles [26:02]
Preludio-Anoranza-Ecos de la Parranda-Vascongada
3. Danza lenta [2:31]
4. Aparación [2:42]
5. Cartas de amor valses intimos Op. 44 [3:42]
Libro de Horas
6. En el jardin [2:00]
7. El invierno [4:54]
8. Al suplicio [4:03]
Total: 74:27
Piano Works vol. 6
1. Impromptu Op. 39 [5:20]
2. Seis Estudios expresivos [14:09]
3. Marche militaire [3:15]
4. Estudio Op. Posth. [3:03]
5. Elisenda [5:58]
6. Paisaje Op. 35 [6:08]
7. Marchas Militares: No. 1 [2:57]
8. Marchas Militares: No. 2 [2:38]
Escenas Poeticas
9. Berceuse [4:56]
10. Eva y Walter [3:28]
11. Danza de la Rosa [1:37]
Total: 54:04



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