This Nimbus CD was published in 2009, yet another instalment
of Martin Jones's marvellous one-man attempt to record everything
unjustly neglected by other pianists. Spaniard Ernesto Halffter
was one of those composers who very thoughtfully organised his
works into 79 minute sections, so that his complete piano works,
for example, would exactly fill a CD. The New Grove dictionary
does list a further piano piece, El Cuco ('The Cuckoo'),
but given that Halffter composed it when he was six, he might
be forgiven for later disowning it!
El Cuco was omitted too from Guillermo González's recording
of Halffter's complete piano works on Naxos three years ago
- see review
for details. González included the full version of Halffter's
own transcription of his orchestral ballet Sonatina,
but Halffter also published seven dances separately, three of
which Jones includes. Again, then, these are not quite the complete
works, but good enough - away from the stage, Sonatina
is probably better sampled in the dances.
Halffter was in any case not that much of a piano man, his orchestral
music - such as his score for the 1926 silent film Carmen,
recently released by Naxos, and reviewed here
- constituting the most important part of his corpus of works.
He began his composer's life at the piano and returned to it
at various points of his career, though only really to make
use of spare time - evidently not driven by any great urge to
write for the piano. The works in Martin Jones's programme span,
therefore, an incredible seventy years, with the poignant Homenajes
to three of Halffter's own greats, including his recently-deceased
brother Rodolfo, coming right at the end of his life. Jones
plays the pieces pretty much chronologically, as he really ought
to, though with a couple of arbitrary-looking mix-ups.
It has to be said that none of the works on this disc is of
major significance, unlike those of Rodolfo, some of whose own
piano works were recently released by Naxos and reviewed here.
Even the two Sonatas are of the Baroque rather than Romantic
type - one indeed is subtitled 'Homage to Domenico Scarlatti',
though in effect they could both have been.
On the other hand, Halffter's music, though generally straightforward
and uncomplicated, is not by any measure banal - there is grace,
melody, poignancy, humour, Spanishness and imagination on practically
every page. Some of the works that stand out include the deceptively
simple-sounding Crepúsculos, a bewitching three-parter
whose twilight textures and tonalities befit their title, the
Andalusian-inspired Sonatina dances, the virtuosic, comparatively
modernist Preludio y Danza, and the various pianistically
sophisticated homages, particularly the moving Homenaje a
From beginning to end Jones performs as ever with a delicate,
thoughtful touch, playing even the most youthful pieces with
expression and respect. The booklet notes by Calum MacDonald
are detailed and excellent, making it the easiest thing to forgive
the odd wayward diacritic. Sound and production are of the high
quality a Wyastone recording usually indicates, although there
is some reverberation.
For all fans of attractive, passionate Spanish music this is
an ideal disc with which to impress friends.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk