Frederico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Preludes Nos. 5-10: No.5 (1930) [2:18]: No.6 (1930) [4:30]: No.7 (1931) [2:45]: No.8 (1943) [2:51]: No.9 (1943) [2:34]: No.10 (1944) [1:54]
Canciónes y danzas Nos. 5-12: No.5 (1942) [3:42]: No.6 (1942) [4:45]: No.7 (1944) [2:43]: No.8 (1946) [3:33]: No.9 (1948) [3:56]: No.10 (1953) [2:15]: No.11 (1961) [3:34]: No.12 (1962) [3:16]
Impresiones intimas (1911-14) [19:03]
Olena Kushpler (piano)
rec. August 2011, Siemensvilla, Berlin
CAPRICCIO C5115 [63:47]
Mompou's character pieces and dances have long exercised a pull on the exploratory pianist. The Ukrainian Olena Kushpler has selected six of the Preludes and eight of the Canciónes y danzas, adding the complete Impressiones intimas to create a well-balanced programme. Purists might have wished for complete sets of the former, but maybe they will appear in due course. Kushpler has a warm tone and good instincts for the music's plangency and dreamy qualities. Nor is she innocent of its tangier, dance-like vitality. It's often a question of how the pianist characterises the moods and impressions Mompou presents: a question too of how to approach and bind those tricky contrastive B sections. Too big a contrast and the structure fractures; too small a contrast and the mood dissolves.
Mompou recorded a large tranche of his own music in 1974 when he was on 81. The box set on Brilliant was reviewed by me some years ago. He is almost always more percussive and with a dryer, more hard-edged sound than others who record this music. Partly this is a question of the piano and the recorded sound, but also it's part of a composer-executant’s stand-offish view of his own music: gimlet-eyed, taut, and not inclined to linger unnecessarily. Maybe, too, it's a question of age, though he doesn't seem unduly taxed technically. Kushpler is another in the line of pianists who are less arresting rhythmically than the composer, but who offer compensation in tonal breadth. This is true in the fifth and seventh Preludes. When Mompou writes 'languido' as he does of the Ninth prelude Kushpler takes him at his word and plays with considerable charm and colour. Mompou's objectivist stance is of a piece with his performances generally. Sometimes this duality of response can change a piece's character. The Tenth Prelude, for instance, is more chordally warm and ebullient in her hands but with the composer things are cool, almost quizzical.
In the lovely Canciónes y danzas, we find that where she is youthful  and light, he is full of regret and tristesse (No.5) and that where she savours the lyricism (No.6) he absorbs it but passes on without show. Where she is eager and excited (No.8) he is fragile and nostalgic - though, as this is a Lento, who's to gainsay the composer here? What remains incontestable is her subtly coloured playing, attractive chording and enthusiasm for the richness inherent in the music. And, in any case, it's rather enjoyable to find in the Impressiones intimas that where Mompou espouses a tensile directness laced with rubati (No.3) she prefers sweetness and light.
One can enjoy Kushpler's performances alongside the composer's very different recordings, some of which, it's true, do suffer tape flaws. She offers a warmly textured series of performances, well recorded. My only concern remains whether she intends to complete the sets. Collectors might not necessarily look favourably on the complete Impressiones but only half of the other two sets. Let's hope she concludes the undertaking.
Jonathan Woolf
A warmly textured series of performances, well recorded.