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Manuel BLANCAFORT (1897–1987)
Complete Piano Music – Volume 4
Pastourella (Pastorale) (1928) [5:10]
American Souvenir (1926/1929) [12:59]
Sonatina antiga (1928/1929) [18:03]
Ermita I panorama (Hermitage and Panorama) (1930/1931) [10:39]
Cavatina i diàleg (1934) [6:33]
Romança, intermedi I marxa (1942) [11:13]
Miquel Villalba (piano)
rec. 2-3 June 2007, L’Auditorium, Jafre, Spain. DDD
NAXOS 8.557335 [64:38]
Experience Classicsonline

Catalan composer Manuel Blancafort will probably be a new name to many. This is volume four of what, I suppose, will ultimately be a recording of his complete piano works. What I hear here is lovely stuff, not what I expected, to be sure, and it’s colourful and, sometimes, fun.
Blancafort travelled to the USA in 1923 and his American Souvenir is a reminiscence of that trip. The two pieces are easy-going and very approachable. The first movement, Transatlàntic en ruta (Liner at Sea) depicts the sea crossing, with both calm and turbulent seas, combined, I am sure, with his feelings on the crossing. The second, Homenage a Chaplin, is a mock-heroic portrait of the great clown – Blancafort was a big Chaplin fan. It’s a fun piece much in the manner of Debussy’s General Levine - eccentric and Minstrels from the Préludes.
Sonatina antiga is a backward-looking piece: “I wanted to use an ancient mould and create something new” but quite unlike Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. The first movement is a kind of Bach Toccata but the language is angular, different from the music which has gone before. The middle siciliano movement is more straightforward but with some “wrong note” harmonies. The finale returns to the spirit of Bach’s fast movements with odd turns of harmonic voicing. The notes tell us that this is a unique work in Blancafort’s output, which is rather a shame as it has more bite than the other pieces on the disk, even if it does outstay its welcome a little.
Ermita I panorama is in two parts – a lovely nocturne and an energetic movement. Cavatina i diàleg is a stately dance, and the final Romança, intermedi I marxa is in three movements comprising two slow pieces and a fast conclusion.
It’s all very lovely, and easily approachable, music which simply doesn’t get in the way of whatever you’re doing whilst listening. And, for me, there lies the problem. Lovely music it might be, and Miquel Villalba is a very persuasive advocate for the music, not only playing very well but also supplying an interesting and informative note in the booklet, but there isn’t any real personality to it. As I listened I was always conscious of someone in the background – Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc (for a moment) – and the facile content didn’t totally hold my attention. This music will, I am sure, give a lot of pleasure to many but don’t expect to be engaged by it.
Bob Briggs
Reviews of other volumes
Volume 1 - 8.557332: Neil Horner
Volume 2 - 8.557333: Jonathan Woolf and Roger Blackburn
Volume 3 - 8.557334: John Leeman and Tim Perry

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