I remember being, and remaining, fascinated by Mompou’s recordings of his own piano music. It wasn’t so much the question of ‘authenticity’, though that naturally came into it, so much as the indelible rightness of the rhythmic structures of the music-making. Even in his later 70s he had the music under his fingertips.
But there is a wealth of Mompou’s music yet to be heard, yet to be recorded, either because it wasn’t published and/or because his widow kept it under wraps. Such a disc is this one, with nine pieces noted as being premiere recordings. That’s almost a fifty per cent ratio, so it should gladden the heart of the composer’s admirers even if one may find, as I did from time to time, that the music lacked the Mompou magic.
We start with Cançó de l´àvia which is his first song (previously unrecorded), written in 1915 when he was 22. It’s pleasing but rather derivative. El testament d´Amèlia is actually a touch deceptive; it’s not an original song but an arrangement made in 1948 and dedicated to Victoria de los Angeles. The Cant de la Victòria is richly atmospheric whilst Ets l´infinit and Et sento que véns were both dedicated to his wife. The latter is notable for the sparseness of the piano writing but also for its ultimate romantic resolution.
Sis variacions harmòniques sobre una cançó popular and El pont Montjuïc are both written for solo piano. The first named is tranquil and warm, lightly impressionistic, but mainly suffused with rich romantic sensibility. The second is Mompou’s longest single piano piece, dedicated to his wife Carmen once again, and is riper, and more overtly romantic. One’s appreciation is deepened by the knowledge that she used to play it for Mompou in their home, but hadn’t played it, or heard it, until Mac McClure played it for her many years after her husband’s death. Tango is another solo piano work, but is really a habanera, quite Debussian, slow and limpid.
The Cinq mélodies de Paul Valéry combine obvious Gallic influences with more rhythmically quixotic writing; the results are endearing and enjoyable, not least because mezzo Marisa Martins sings them with such intelligence.
Indeed she and McClure make a most idiomatic pairing in this repertoire, and fortunately they have been well recorded. There are texts but no translations. Columna Música is a good label, producing fine recordings that are apt to be overlooked.