Ernesto HALFFTER (1905-1989)
The Piano Music
Espagnolade (1937) [4:39]
Crepúsculos - 3 Trozos Líricos (1920/1936) [10:50]
Marche Joyeuse (1922) [2:43]
*3 Piezas Infantiles, for piano 4 hands (1919) [3:07]
Sonata (1926/1932) [6:00]
3 Dances [from: Sonatina (1927)] [11:05]
Gruss (1940) [2:22]
Llanto por Ricardo Viñes (1943) [3:52]
Serenata a Dulcinea (1944) [5:22]
Pregón - Cuba (1945) [2:40]
Habanera (1945) [4:11]
Preludio y Danza (1974) [5:19]
Nocturno Otoñal 'Recordando a Chopin' (1987) [3:47]
Sonata 'Homenaje a Domenico Scarlatti' (1985) [5:38]
Homenaje a Rodolfo Halffter (1988) [3:12]
Homenaje a Federico Mompou (1988) [2:32]
Homenaje a Joaquín Turina (1988) [1:51]
Martin Jones (piano)
*Adrian Farmer (piano)
rec. Wyastone, Monmouth, Wales, 29-30 November 2006 and 14 May 2007. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5849 [79:23]
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 Rodolfo Halffter.
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.
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For all fans of attractive, passionate Spanish music this is an ideal disc with which to impress friends.