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Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Piano Music Volume 2
Canción (1900) [02:16]
Cortejo de los gnomos (1901) [02:18]
Vals-Capricho (1900) [03:11]
Canción de los remeros del Volga (1922) [03:39]
Mazurca (c.1899) [05:23]
Fantasia bética (1919) [13:17]
2 Dances from “La vida breve” (1913) [08:02]
Suite from “El sombrero de tres picos” (1919) [17:39]
Daniel Ligorio (piano)
rec. February-March 2005, Estudios Moraleda, Barcelona
NAXOS 8.555066 [55:47]

This second volume completes Ligorio’s survey of de Falla’s piano music (see review of Volume 1 - 8.555065). Even with the completion and editing of some unfinished ballet and opera transcriptions the discs are somewhat short. Recently I listened to Baselga’s single BIS record which shows that the original piano music, including the juvenilia, fits neatly onto one generously timed CD.
Still, we will not doubt Ligorio’s labour of love. I compared him with Baselga in the first two pieces listening on headphones. The Naxos recording sounded impressively rich, the BIS a little less immediate. But listening to the rest of the programme over loudspeakers the Naxos sometimes seemed clattery in loud passages, the BIS full-toned but with good perspective.
As to the performances, I thought at first Ligorio was getting a little more out of the music. At a slower tempo his “Canción” sounds even more like a spare Satie Gymnopčdie and his “Cortejo de los gnomos” is amusingly grotesque. Baselga is good but slightly bland in comparison. On the other hand, Ligorio plays the “Vals-Capricho” drily and mechanically, as if for a puppet show. It’s an idea, but here Baselga’s nostalgic rubato and warmer textures seem to find more in the music.
Honours are even, I’d say, in the bleakly Stravinskian setting of the “Song of the Volga Boatman”. Why insert it in the group of early pieces, though? Ligorio’s “Mazurca” has more of the Mazurka feel to it though Baselga’s more inflected version has its attractions. 
This is probably not music you need to hear often but it’s important to have a good “Fantasia bética” – de Falla’s one masterpiece for solo piano. Ligorio is good but he sounds a little laboured in certain passages beside Baselga.
Ligorio has compared the published versions of de Falla’s transcriptions with the composer’s sketches in an attempt to come up with a version which is as close as possible to the orchestral score. His notes give minimum information. The second dance from “La vida breve” and the final “Jota” from “Sombrero” are recorded for the first time so I presume they were not actually completed and published. This latter emerges as rather lumpy, not quite the scintillating finale it can be on the orchestra. Did de Falla not complete it because he had doubts? On the whole, while Ligorio plays these transcriptions well he does not convince me they are a genuine alternative to the colourful orchestral originals.
While recognizing that Ligorio scores over Baselga in a few of the early pieces my recommendation is fairly clear. Go to Baselga for the complete original music on one disc, and get good orchestral versions of the ballet and opera extracts. Or go to Alicia de Larrocha (Decca), who chose what she presumably thought the best of the original pieces and added a few of the transcriptions.
Christopher Howell

see also review by John France


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