I knew of Blancafort and
had mentally marked his name for further exploration. As for
de Grignon, I had never heard of him. In these circumstances,
having the really thorough liner-note by Xose Aviñoa
helps enormously. It's in Catalan, Spanish and English and
can be read
in full on pdf on the Columna
Blancafort thunders and swoons with the best in his Concerto
Ibéric. It's an unreconstructed, blazing late-romantic
piano concerto of the type that you can loosely pigeonhole
alongside the roaring Bliss and the second and third by Bortkiewicz.
A delightful piece its modestly ecstatic and warm rhapsodic
facets leave room for an occasional Iberian twist as in 4:58
in the first movement. The second movement is debonair and
innocently playful. It is followed by a determined yet fantastic
finale which links to the belled-out barnstorming flamenco
delight of the first movement. It is the second of his piano
concertos and was premiered on 3 March 1950 in Barcelona by
the municipal orchestra conducted by Eduard Toldrà and
the soloist Maria Canals.
Ricard Lamote de Grignon was imprisoned in 1936 having written his Cartell Simfonic and having had it performed in a series of concerts held as tribute to the USSR. Like Blancafort his early career was associated with the making of paper piano-rolls for the player-piano industry. Like Blancafort he had to find a new living when radio killed the pianola. His career was marked by embitterment and a careful eye to Fascist condemnation. There are various large-scale orchestral works alongside opera (La cabeza del dragon, 1939, the first opera broadcast on television across Spain) and film music including Parsifal (1951) and the movie Concierto Magico (1952),
the latter a concert piece for piano and orchestra. Toldrà also
conducted the premiere of the Triptico de la piel de toro on 16 and 18 October 1959.
Triptico de la piel de toro possesses a warm idyllic
atmosphere and a bell-decorative accent. Luxurious harp ‘slashes’ kindle
pleasures redolent of Ravel and de Falla's Noches. There's a dreamy and confidingly tender Adagio recalling the mood of Bax's Maytime in Sussex. Indeed both these works would have appealed to Harriet Cohen. We know that she loved and performed de Falla's Noches. I wonder if either composer approached her with these works. The finale with its stuttering vitality clearly has a kinship with de Falla at his most exultant.
These works should attract anyone who is already under the sway of the de Falla or of Bax's Winter Legends, Marx's Castelli Romani or
John Carmichael’s Concerto Folklorico.
I hope that we will hear much more from Blancafort and Lamote de Grignon. On this showing their music has great power to charm and storm. Thus if stunning originality (an over-prized commodity) is not demanded you will want to hear both these concertos and more. Personally I would warmly welcome hearing Cartell Simfonic and Blancafort's First Concerto. Is Columna Musica listening?