Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002)
El CD del Centenari
a Cinco Canciones Negras, for soprano and orchestra (1945-46/1949) [11:38]
b Energico (from: Concierto Breve, for piano and orchestra (1953)) [10:03]
c Overture - Mira si soy desgraciado - Adagietto (from: El Gato con Botas (1948)) [13:34]
d Sentimi, Angela (from: Una voce in Off (1962)) [2:29]
e Sonatine pour Yvette, for piano (1961) [9:15]
f Madrigal sobre un Tema Popular (El Cant dels Ocells), for soprano, cello and piano (1991) [5:18]
g Barcelona Blues - Música de Ballet, for two pianists (1956) [5:19]
h Variacions sobre el tema de 'La Spagnoletta' de Giles Farnaby, for violin and piano (1945) [8:58]
i Divagació, for piano (1950) [3:22]
j Energico ostinato (from: Cuadrivio para tres Stradivarius, for string trio (1983)) [2:53]
k Nana, for soprano and piano (1946) [3:56]
a Victoria de los Ángeles (soprano)
c Isabel Monar (soprano), Enric Martínez-Castigniani (barítone)
c,d Antoni Comas (tenor)
c,f Marisa Martins (mezzo-soprano)
k Nancy Fabiola Herrera (mezzo)
f Selma Gokcen (cello)
h,j Ala Voronkova (violin)
j Josephine Fitzpatrick (viola), Manuel Martínez del Fresno (cello)
b Alicia de Larrocha (piano)
e,f,g,h,k Mac McClure (piano)
g Ramon Garriga (piano)
i Carlota Garriga (piano)
a Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
b Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra / Lawrence Foster
c,d Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu / Antoni Ros-Marbà
d Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
rec. No information given. DDD/ADD
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0296 [76:45]
The phrase 'classical compilation' is widely associated with the latest release from Classic FM (UK), a mishmash reordering of the same basic playlist of bleeding chunks made famous by TV adverts. Still less well known even than fellow Catalan composer and contemporary Federico Mompou, Xavier Montsalvatge is a long way off the ignominy of death by a thousand repetitions. Instead, this CD from Barcelona-based independent label Columna Música is a generous compilation of recordings from the back catalogue, and serves as a taster for Montsalvatge's quality music on the twin occasion of the centenary of his birth and the decennary of his death.
Perhaps surprisingly for those to whom his name is still unfamiliar, Montsalvatge is fairly well represented on CD, with five recordings available, for example, of the Concierto Breve and more still of the Sonatine pour Yvette. Naxos have been generous in the last couple of years with three volumes of solo piano music, but Columna Música have supported his cause since their foundation more than fifteen years ago.
The disc includes his best-known work, the delicious Cinco Canciones Negras, sung by the inimitable Victoria de los Ángeles, Montsalvatge's most prominent advocate and close friend. She is accompanied by orchestral playing that is rather shaky in places, but everywhere else performances range from the solid to the splendid. Montsalvatge's music ranges across a number of styles, most notably neo-classicism and impressionism. Many of his works also draw on serialism and polytonality, and in later years he was seen as part of the European avant-garde. But only the brief extract from the string trio Cuadrivio falls into that category in this collection. Elsewhere, melody is seldom far away and an attractive Spanish/Catalan colour is splashed across many works. Both aspects come together in perfect unison in the lovely Madrigal, Montsalvatge's heartfelt setting of the exquisite Catalan folksong, El Cant dels Ocells, made famous by Pau Casals.
No attempt has been made to normalise volume levels across the various tracks, but generally sound quality is pretty good throughout, even where age has bequeathed a certain flatness. The song Nana has some hiss, echo and a squeaky floorboard, but nothing that detracts from the passion of the music.
Surprisingly, the booklet notes reveal nothing about the recordings in this selection, and there is no information on any of the performers. The focus is rightly on Montsalvatge, but would it have been too much trouble for Columna Música to copy details over from the relevant originals? The brief editorial essay - shakily translated into English in places, but readable - offers some background to the CD, part of a broader set of projects initiated by the recently-founded Xavier Montsalvatge Society to promote the musician and the intellectual. Their discography list is huge, although at the time of writing (September 2012) the third volume in Naxos's series dedicated to Montsalvatge's complete piano music (8.572636) had not yet been added.  

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A generous compilation from the back catalogue. A Montsalvatge taster for the centenary of his birth and the decennary of his death.