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Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia Suite (orch. Arbós) (orig.1905-08) [30:01]
Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor (1889) [24:25]
Navarra (compl. de Séverac) (1909) [4:16]
Catalonia – Suite Populaire* (1899) [5:23]
Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz
Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz
rec. St Barnabas, Woodside Park, London, 1984; * Sala Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico City date unknown
REGIS RRC1298 [64:24]


Experience Classicsonline

was originally conceived as a series of twelve piano pieces each depicting a Spanish dance, festival or locality. They make great technical demands on the pianist and in fact Albéniz was the first of several pianists forced to simplify the writing. The composer was beginning to show signs of Bright’s Disease at the time and when he came to orchestrate the work he soon had to ask his friend Enrique Arbós to continue the task. Surinach and Stokowski also orchestrated sections and there have been many transcriptions for guitar. This suite comprises six brightly coloured orchestrations. The recorded sound on this Regis CD is very good and Bátiz’s readings are vibrant, rhythmically strong and taut yet elastic to make the dances sinuous and supple. The first movement, ‘Evocación’ (orch. 1910) is a nostalgic fandanguillo-jota navarra dance in triple time; ‘Fęte-Dieu ŕ Séville’ (orch. 1925) depicts a Corpus Christi Day procession in Seville complete with a saeta lament. The 1906 ‘Triana’ (orch. 1917), with its imitations of castanets and heeltaps, is named after the gypsy quarter of Seville. ‘El Puerto’ (orch. 1908) evokes a busy fishing port. ‘El albaicin’ another depiction of a gypsy quarter, this time in Granada, was orchestrated in 1924 and is in flamenco style. Finally, ‘Navarra’, the flamboyant last movement of this suite, was conceived as part of the composer’s original piano composition. It was begun in Albéniz’s final year but completed by Déodat de Séverac and orchestrated in 1927.

Albéniz’s Piano Concerto No. 1 shows the influence of the composer’s cosmopolitan travels and training. There is charm but it is not distinctive; it shows the influence of Chopin, Schumann and Mendelssohn. There is no obvious use of Spanish themes or dances - more’s the pity, one might think. It begins portentously with a darkly dramatic orchestral introduction lasting almost two minutes. This opening movement develops along the lines of many Late-Romantic concertos with dramatic, lyrically nostalgic and whimsical episodes. Its melodies are attractive if not especially memorable. The central movement is gentle and dream-like developing into exuberance. The finale continues in this mood with dramatic contrasts. Aldo Ciccolini makes the most of its material.

Catalonia has a strong Spanish influence. It is dazzling, very fast moving and hedonistic. It has been hailed as the most ‘brilliant Spanish fantasy since Chabrier’s Espańa’.

The Albéniz Concerto is nothing remarkable but the rest of the programme is colourful and vibrant enough.

Ian Lace




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