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Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Prélude VII [3:01]
Damunt de tu només les flors (transc. Volodos) [4:12]
Scènes d'enfants [9:41]
Hoy la tierra y los cielos me sonrien (transc. Volodos) [2:15]
El lago (Paisajes, No. 2) [5:26]
...pour appeler la joie (Charmes, No. 6) [1:13]
Prélude XII [4:10]
Dialogues 2 [2:20]
Dialogues 1 [3:10]
Música callada Nos. 1, 2, 27, 24, 25, 11, 15, 22, 16, 6, 21 [27:35]
Arcadi Volodos (piano)
rec. 25-28 October and 17-19 December 2012, Teldex Studios, Berlin
SONY CLASSICAL 88765 433262 [63:03]

When this release was first announced, a friend was skeptical: Arcadi Volodos, showman virtuoso, playing the music of Federico Mompou, poetic loner? The match could hardly be more surprising - or successful.
Whether you read Volodos' booklet essay, listen to the way he's transcribed two songs in new guises for solo piano, or hear his playing throughout the CD, there's no doubting the artist's sincere affection and affinity for this music. With the second half taken up by excerpts from the austerely beautiful masterwork Música callada, the CD forms a sort of logical progression from Mompou's early years, more in the style of Debussy, to the sparer, leaner works of his maturity. This program usefully reveals a cross-section of the composer's long career: Musica callada is his last published piano music, but Scènes d'enfants is among his first. Volodos excels in all of it.
Actually, we'd had inklings of his gifts as a colorist and tone-painter for some time, since his live In Vienna album - which this site somehow never reviewed. This new disc only confirms the genius of Volodos, because the man who started his career with virtuoso Liszt transcriptions is just as comfortable, maybe more so, with the pauses and empty spaces of Mompou's language. It's like the Japanese sketches which achieve, using as few strokes as possible on a wide mostly empty canvas, maximal expressive power. One never senses, not for a second, that Volodos wants to rush through, or make Mompou into something he is not. In fact, the words he's written in the booklet, though rather breathless with praise, show great understanding: “there is neither contrast nor conflict; but thanks to the deliberately chosen modest resources, the music rises to an altitude where the listener has the impression of living outside time for a moment”.
There are competing releases. Jenny Lin recorded all of Música callada recently for Steinway & Sons, a disc which wound up on many Recording of the Year lists. Mompou himself recorded what we thought was his complete piano music after he turned 80 - unpublished discoveries have turned up on Naxos. I almost want to waive the need for comparisons. This is music which very badly needs to be part of our core repertoire, and that means encouraging more pianists to present their viewpoints and their ideas. It would be unfortunate if the presence of Mompou's own recordings inhibited future interpreters, especially those as great and as devoted as Jenny Lin and Arcadi Volodos.
By the way, the engineering is faultless, and the CD is presented as a miniature hardback book, with the disc itself inside the front cover and 60 photo-filled pages that focus so informatively on Mompou that they don't include a biography of the pianist. This is truly a first-class production.
Brian Reinhart