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CD: MDT AmazonUK

Josep MARTÍ I CRISTIÀ (1884-1918)
Recordances de la Joventut, op.17 (1905-09) [19:18]
Siluetes (1911-15) [18:14]
Tres Preludis [5:08]
Si Vinguessis amb mi vora el Mar - Poema [7:58]
En el Patio [4:41]
Pamplona - Jota (1910) [5:41]
Daniel Blanch (piano)
rec. Auditori Can Roig i Torres, Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Spain, 11-13 October 2010. DDD
LA MÀ DE GUIDO LMG 2102 [62:02]

Experience Classicsonline

To say that history has forgotten the Catalan composer Josep Martí i Cristià would be an understatement. An internet search turns up only sites selling this CD. Oxford Music Online fails to recognise his name. The booklet notes sum up the "scant and short references in the literature", mentioning his study under Granada and Pedrell, his large corpus of works in almost every genre, the music school he founded, his pride in Catalonia and his championship swimming. His early demise without issue means that almost everything known about him comes from a biography and catalogue of works published in 1919 by his friend Ezequiel Martín in his memory.

This CD is the end product of a collaboration between the recently formed Friends of Josep Martí i Cristià Association, Catalan pianist Daniel Blanch, the Catalonian Culture Industries Institute, and La Mà de Guido, a Barcelona-based label dedicated to the music of the Iberian peninsula. This aspires to be the first of many projects, including the publication of all Martí i Cristià's extant scores, which together will bring about "public recognition and will place him among the best Catalan composers of the 20th century."

Daniel Blanch's website lists six previous CDs dating back ten years, two on Ars Harmonica (review) and four on Columna Música (review), covering both standard solo and chamber repertoire and relatively unknown Hispanic orchestral music. He opens this recital with Recordances de la Joventut, referred to as Records de Joventut in the booklet (but both meaning 'Memories of Youth'), an evocative set of 13 very short pieces, mainly around a minute in length, of a youthful, generally light character, reminiscent of Schumann above all: titles include such as 'Playing', 'April', 'Sleeping', 'Maternal Advice' and 'Lead Soldier'. The nine pieces that make up Siluetes ('Silhouettes') are similar in some ways, short, unpretentious, lilting, memorable, but tinged with more melancholy - a grown-up version, perhaps, of the Recordances. The last piece is a rather ominous 'Dansa de la Mort'.

There is further pianistic poetry in the Three Preludes, more beguiling miniatures of a nostalgic bent. In the final three items the influence of Debussy on the one hand, and Granados and Albéniz on the other, is most clearly audible: Debussy in the tantalising harmonies and mellow melodies of the semi-impressionistic Si Vinguessis amb mi vora el Mar ('If You Came with me beside the Sea'), Granados and Albéniz in the more openly nationalistic En el Patio ('In the Courtyard') and Pamplona, a rousing, almost patriotic audience-pleaser of its time.

Sound quality is good. There is the occasional misjudged cutting of tracks, with unnecessarily inserted digital micro-seconds intruding here and there into still resonating piano chords, though the effect on listener enjoyment is pretty minimal. The trilingual CD booklet is as informative as can be about so ephemeral a composer, and well written, although the translations into English are not entirely idiomatic.

Martí i Cristià's music, though hardly ground-breaking, is by no means banal: on the contrary, it is full of melody, poignancy, elegance, Spanish character and imagination on almost every page, all brought vividly to life by the light-fingered, graceful pianism of Daniel Blanch. Listening to this disc is a very pleasant way to spend an hour, whether recalling one's own childhood lost or dreaming of blue Spanish skies.

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