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Since this review was written it has emerged that at least some of Joyce Hatto's recordings for Concert Artist are based on copies of the work of other pianists (further information here). In those cases for which clear scientific evidence is available, details will be added as they become available.

 

Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
El Pelele [4:39]
Goyescas (1911): Los requiebros [9:31]; Coloquio en la reja [11:21]; El fandango de candil [6:25]; Quejas, ola maja y el ruiseñor [6:45]; El amor y la muerte [13:43]; Epilogo - Serenata del espectro [8:11]
Danzas Espanolas, Op.37: Oriental, Op.37 No.2 [4:51]; Andaluza, Op.37 No.5 [3:58]; Tonadilla, Op.37 No.10 [3:45]
Escenas Romanticas: El Poeta y el ruiseñor [5:12]
Joyce Hatto (piano)
rec. Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, England, Nov. 2001 (Danzas, Escenas), Jan. 2003 and Sept.2005 (rest)
CONCERT ARTIST CD 92492 [78:23]

 

Having just recently given a big thumbs up in these columns to the EMI GROC re-issue of Alicia de Larrocha’s first recording of Goyescas from the early 1960s, it is fascinating to compare this new recording from the late Joyce Hatto. She has been much praised in a wide variety of repertoire, not least here on MusicWeb International, so I was very keen to hear what all the excitement was about.

I noticed with interest in a recent MusicWeb review of her Mozart sonatas that Hatto - not one to gush – is quoted as having real respect for Larrocha’s playing. I made the point, in my previous review, that the earlier EMI version had tremendous fire and a passionate virtuosity, whereas Larrocha’s later Decca recording was slightly more measured and introspective, though no less enjoyable. Hatto’s playing matches that later Larrocha version in many ways. Almost every piece is just a shade slower than Larrocha on EMI, but where any fire and brimstone is lost there is a gain in poetry and warmth.

She chooses to open the disc with the high jinx of El Pelele, rather than make it an encore as others, including Rubinstein and Larrocha, have done. I think it actually works better as a curtain-raiser, especially in Hatto’s exuberant, joyous reading. The liner-note writer, MusicWeb’s own Jonathan Woolf, rightly identifies the mournful, contrary motion start to Quejas ola maja y el ruiseñor as redolent of Chopin. Being a renowned interpreter of the Polish master, Hatto makes the most of the sinewy chromatic inflections that follow, turning the piece into some ghostly Spanish nocturne. She also controls the many tricky tempo markings with complete naturalness, her rubato emerging as conversation-like and unforced. Hatto is marginally less imperious than the young Larrocha in the unison, almost Lisztian flourish which opens El amor y la muerte, the piece Bryce Morrison identifies as the spiritual heart of Goyescas, but she is more poetic in the glorious adagio section (from 6:03). She also makes more of the wispy quotes from other pieces in the set, most notably at 10:02, where Los requiebros is fleetingly remembered. She is less aggressive in the bell-like coda, where Larrocha’s brighter, harder sound almost conjures up the melancholic tintinnabulation of Rachmaninov.

Having just mentioned the lovely Los requiebros, possibly my favourite piece of the whole set, it’s worth mentioning that Hatto is again a shade slower and shapes the naggingly memorable central tune with a touch more feeling. Larrocha has a true Spaniard’s fire in her belly and moves things on with more momentum, and I guess here, as throughout, there is easily room for both interpretations as they complement each other nicely in a Florestan/ Eusebius sort of way. Hatto isn’t quite so overt in the many guitar impersonations – such as the strums at 2:25 of Epilogo, where Larrocha really does try to make the piano another instrument.

The Danzas and Escenas are beautifully done, my only quibble being a slightly different, marginally drier perspective on the earlier recording, at least to my ears. In any case, the sound generally is a vast improvement over the early Hispavox recording for Larrocha, the steely hardness of which is the one serious flaw to that version. These glorious pieces deserve more than one recording in your collection, so whoever you have playing them Joyce Hatto will sit very nicely alongside.

Tony Haywood

 


 



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