Rodolfo HALFFTER (1900-1987)
Piano Sonata no.1 op.16 (1947) [10:56]
Piano Sonata no.2 op.20 (1951) [16:26]
Piano Sonata no.3 op.30 (1967) [15:36]
...Husped de las Nieblas (Rimas sin Palabras), for flute and piano, op.44 (1981) [7:21]
Pastorale for violin and piano, op.18, (1940) [5:07]
gloga for oboe and piano, op.45 (1982) [7:43]
Soloists of the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid
Mara Elena Barrientos (piano) [Sonatas]
Francisco Jos Segovia (piano) [opp. 18, 44, 45]
Cinta Varea (flute) [op.44]
Victor Arriola (violin) [op.18]
Vicente Fernndez (oboe) [op.45]
rec. Madrid, November 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.572418 [63:10]

This is the first of three volumes (at least) by Naxos of the piano and chamber music of Rodolfo Halffter. Volumes 2 and 3 are only available as downloads for the time being from The main works on this first volume are Halffter's three piano sonatas, with three shorter works for piano with oboe, flute or violin.

One of Halffter's five brothers, Ernesto (1905-89), and their nephew Cristbal (b.1930), are both composers, and both have had full CDs of their works published by Naxos. Of Prussian descent - hence the Germanic-looking surname - all three were born in Madrid, and whilst Ernesto and Cristbal have remained there, Rodolfo emigrated to Mexico, where he took citizenship in 1939. Though he was aided by Carlos Chvez among others, there is nothing particularly Mexican-sounding about Halffter's music. In fact, his basically melodic-tonal style is more along the lines of Manuel De Falla, whom he knew, and at times reminiscent of that of his brother Ernesto. Naxos too have decided that Halffter's music is not Mexican, issuing this disc in their growing 'Spanish Classics' range.

All of Halffter's music on this disc is essentially frugal and light. The three Piano Sonatas are short, that is to say, concise - they say what Halffter wants to say and nothing more. Theres no hint of superficiality. The first two Sonatas are luminous and airy, with dance-like rhythms and bouts of unobtrusive polytonality. The Third Sonata, on the other hand, written at a time when Halffter was well into a more avant-garde style, represents an experiment with twelve-note techniques. For this reason it is certainly the least accessible of the three sonatas, indeed of all the music on the disc. Yet, even incorporating aleatoric elements in the third movement, Halffter does achieve his goal of reconciling sonata-form and serialism well enough for the Sonata to give the impression of something approaching development, and even glimpses of nationalism. It is the dramatic music, not the maths, to which the listener's attention is drawn.

The title ...Husped de las Nieblas comes from a poem by 19th century Spanish poet Gustavo Bcquer, though the piece is not programmatic. Nor is it, despite its date, by any stretch avant-garde - impressionistic, rather than expressionistic. There are three slow sections of a similar nature, and the flautist is sometimes required to play notes that have almost fallen off the bottom end of the instrument's range. The gloga op.45 was written around the same time, is of a similar length and has the same kind of feel to it, albeit slightly faster and sunnier in a bucolic way. The Pastorale op.18 continues the rustic theme and moderato tempo of the Eclogue. It predates Halffter's avant-garde turn having a much more diatonic sound. It is the most Spanish-sounding work on the CD, and undoubtedly the most appealing to a broad audience.

The sound quality on this studio recording is very good, as are the liner-notes. The multi-national soloists are obviously not international superstars, but they do bring considerable experience to this music. They perform admirably throughout, especially Mexican pianist Mara Elena Barrientos in the Sonatas.