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Ernesto LECUONA (1896–1963)
Danzas Cubanas (Suite for piano solo) [18:52]: (No hablas Mas! (Speak no more) [1:48]; No puedo contigo (I cannot make you understand) [3:17]; Ahi vieni el Chino (Here comes the Chinaman) [3:28]; Por que te vas (Why do you go) [4:29]; Lola esta la Fiesta (Lola is celebrating) [3:44]; En tres por quarto (In three quarter time) [1:50])
Danzas Afro-Cubanas (Suite of Afro-cuban dances for piano solo) [18:34]: (La Conga de Media Noche (Midnight Conga) [3:31]; Danza Negra (Dance of the Black Cubans) [2:52]; …Y la Negra Bailabad [3:24]; Danza de las Ñañigos (Dance of the Nanigos) [3:20]; Danza Lucumi (Lucumi’s Dance) [3:46]; La Comparsa (Carnival Procession) [2:21])
Andalucia (Suite Española) [19:29] (Cordoba [3:06]; Andalucia [2:44]; Alhambra [3:49]; Gitanerias [2:01]; Guadalquivir [4:54]; Malaguena [3:25])
Granada [3:29]
Siboney [3:38]
Polly Ferman (piano)
rec. dates and venue not given
TALENT DOM 2910 44 [60:04]

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As was the case with another recent disc from Talent they seem reluctant to reveal the provenance of the recordings. The present one is published and copyrighted 1995/1998/2005, which seems to indicate that at least some of the recordings are more than ten years old, which doesn’t matter at all, technically speaking. Recording engineer Rob de Winter has provided a rich resonant sound with a powerful bass in luxury class. The playing is accordingly beautiful with romantic, finely moulded phrases but slightly laid-back and not so rhythmically alert as my comparison, a disc with Clélia Izurum, that I reviewed less than a year ago. She has a thinner, more sharply etched sound, not as resonantly recorded and her rhythms are more pointed, syncopations almost jagged and some of the harmonic spicing appears a little more daring. She plays a Bösendorfer while I believe that Ms Ferman’s instrument is a Steinway. Her more relaxed playing also means that the rhythms tend to be ironed out, which possibly makes her disc more comfortable to listen to while Ms Izurum undoubtedly is more provocative and thrilling. The differences of approach are further enhanced by their choices of tempo: Polly Ferman is generally slower – even though there are exceptions. Both ladies are fully convincing in their respective attitudes and it is quite possible that if I had heard the two recordings in reverse order I might have considered Clélia Izurum a bit eccentric. Having played her disc off and on over more than six months, her readings have become the norm for me. For that reason it was perspective-building to make these comparisons. I am happy to have both, and since I really have taken this music to my heart I will certainly continue to listen to Ms Izurum but will probably turn to Ms Ferman in some moods. Danzas Afro-Cubanas and Andalucia are common for both discs, while Polly Ferman has Danzas Cubanas for herself. These dances are lighter and less rhythmically sophisticated and possibly better suited to her approach.

She also adds a couple of encores in the shape of Granada and Lecuona’s greatest hit, the song Siboney, which came my way just weeks ago on Juan Diego Florez’s newest offering Sentimento Latino. The lyrics and the orchestral accompaniment provide an extra dimension but even the piano version brings forth the elegance and surging melody, catchy without being too sentimental.

As so often these two discs leaves me like Buridan’s ass. I hope readers now have some idea of the differences. Whichever version you choose you will be in for some highly entertaining music, a kind of early cross-over that suits people with a sweet tooth and a liking for good melodies. It also cater for those who prefer charming Latin-American rhythms and, in the Danzas Afro-Cubanas and Andalucia, some daring harmonic excursions.

Ms Ferman’s disc has a short bio on Lecuona but no comments on the specific pieces played here.

To sum up: Excellent slightly laid-back romantic playing, but Polly Ferman brings out Lecuona’s cross-over music to perfection.

Göran Forsling


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