Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Cançons i danses (Spanish Songs and Dances) Nos. 1-13 (1921-1962) [47:18]
Preludes Nos. 5, 6, 7, 11 (1927-1960) [11:11]
Alicia de Larrocha (piano)
rec. Manhattan Centre, New York, 28-29 November 1992 and (the Preludes) at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, 2-3 April 1993
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802096 [58:29] 

This CD is a reissue of de Larrocha’s celebrated album first issued on RCA Victor 09026 62554 as detailed in the heading above. 

Mompou was born in Barcelona where the music hall and the sounds of his grandfather’s bell foundry were formative influences. He spent two years studying at the Paris Conservatoire (from 1911) and then returned to Paris in 1921, where he was to live until the Nazi occupation two decades later.
Mompou’s music is ethereal and enigmatic. One can only take the descriptions in their titles as very rough guides. These evocations are very personal and often dream-like. As Stephen Hough says in his eloquently written booklet notes for his rival recording [Hyperion CDA66963 that includes Cançiones y danzas 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8 and Preludes 1, 5, 6, 7 and 9], "There is no development of material, little counterpoint, no drama, nor climaxes to speak of; and this simplicity of expression - elusive evasive and shy - is strangely disarming." Mompou’s music is unique - although occasionally one detects influences of, say, Debussy, Satie, Scriabin, but these are minimal. The music has an appealing childlike innocence and purity; in fact No. 3 has an artful child-like skipping tune. Again quoting Hough, "When asked once how to play his music the composer replied, ‘It’s all so free.’" Indeed it is but not just free of rhythmic constraints and structural rules; it is free from affectation, posing, fashion and fads. Just two other examples, the Cançons i danses No. 1 : Petiteta l’han casada - La dansa de Castelltersol begins quite like some Scottish drone with jazz blues in counterpoint moving towards a lighter folksong element. The melancholy bell-like tones of No. 2 give way to a wistful little tune.
Mompou’s stylistic freedom allows for a wide variety of interpretations. Therefore the critic can only go on personal preference. This wonderful Alicia de Larrocha recording should be considered alongside Hough’s recital. There is also a recording by Mompou himself, made in 1950, of his Jeunes filles au jardin;El carrer, el guitarrista i e vell cavall;La fuente y la campana and Cancions y danzas Nos 5, 6 and 8 on a very interesting EMI "Composers in Person" CD (EMI 7 54836 2) which also includes Granados, Falla and Nin piano compositions played by these composers. There is also an ambitious Mompou concert on the Naxos label. Brilliant Classics offer a 4CD set of the composer playing his own music.
Looking at these rival recordings: Hough’s interpretations have more sophisticated grace and refinement suggesting the boulevards of Paris; de Larrocha, not surprisingly, prefers to accent Spanish rhythms more strongly, and Mompou adds his own inimitable style, slightly tougher and with a further dimension of almost primitive mystery.
Delicious little free-flowing confections often quite haunting and played to perfection.  

Ian Lace

Delicious little free-flowing confections often quite haunting and played to perfection.