Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas, o Los majos enamorados (1909-1911) [52:08]
Book 1
No. 1 Los requiebros [8:42]
No. 2 Coloquio en la reja, duo de amor [11:18]
No. 3 El fandango de candil [6:13]
No. 4 Quejas, o La maja y el ruiseñor [6:23]
Book 2
No. 1 El amor y la muerte, balada [12:01]
No. 2 Epílogo, serenata del espectro [7:31]
El pelele 'Escena goyesca’ [4:24]
Allegro de concierto [7:37]
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
rec. June 2011, Henry Wood Hall, London, UK
HYPERION CDA67846 [64:09]
It’s been a while since I’ve heard a new disc from the American pianist Garrick Ohlsson, but a quick Google reveals a Chopin cycle for Arabesque in the 1990s – reissued as Hyperion CDS44351/66 – and, more recently, a EuroArts Blu-ray of the Chopin piano concertos with Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic. Given that Ohlsson won the Chopin competition in 1970, it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s spent so much time and energy recording these works; that said, his rendition of Busoni’s sprawling concerto for Telarc suggests he’s actually quite versatile. In any event I was pleased to discover he’d recorded Goyescas, although I did wonder if that preponderance of Polishness would colour his readings of this Iberian classic.
Inspired by an exhibition of Goya’s work at the Prado in 1896 and composed between 1909 and 1911, ‘The Gallants in Love’ has moments of breath-taking virtuosity, none of which hold any terrors for the ever-capable Mr Ohlsson. The guitar-like pluck and strum of Los requiebros (‘The flirtations’) is beautifully managed, the whole played in a broad, flowing style that can only be described as patrician. Ohlsson modulates to a more easygoing mood in Coloquio en la reja, duo de amor (‘Dialogue at the window, love duet’), the sound as warm and weighty as one could wish for. That, coupled with playing of such authority and poise, makes for a most compelling listen.
The rest of Book 1 is no less accomplished, the rhythms of ‘Fandango by candle light’ crisp and clear, Quejas, o La maja y el ruiseñor (‘Complaints, or the maja and the nightingale’) a self-absorbed, circular little number that’s barely faded before Book 2 storms in with El amor y la muerte, balada (‘Love and death, ballad’). There’s much to enjoy here, Ohlsson at his most inward and imperious; and yet, for all his attention to detail there’s something missing. Alicia de Larrocha (Decca and EMI) may not be as consummate a technician, but at least she offers Iberian warmth and character, as opposed to Ohlsson’s cooler, more detached manner.
Make no mistake, this is formidable playing – just listen to the pin-sharp articulation and sophisticated touch of the Epilogue – but the more I listened to these pieces the more I yearned for variety. Is this perhaps a case of the great being the enemy of the good? Perhaps. In any event the sheer glitter and go of El pelele 'Escena goyesca’ (‘The straw man’) will set your pulse racing. The disc rounds off with an infectious account of Granados’s prize-winning Allegro de concierto, Ohlsson at his magisterial – and rhythmic – best. Again, I can only marvel at the dynamics and detail of this recording, one of the finest I’ve heard from this most reliable team.
I so wanted to make this a Recording of the Month – it’s technically outstanding – but Ohlsson is not as involved or penetrating as others, Larrocha especially. The liner-notes by Walter Aaron Clark, scholarly and interesting, are a model of their kind.
Exemplary musicianship that’s long on technique but a little short on temperament.
Dan Morgan
Exemplary musicianship that’s long on technique but a little short on temperament.