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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (complete) (1912-16) [65:23]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Pantomima [4:16]; Canción del Fuego Fatuo [2:43]
Nicholas Zumbro (piano)
rec. London, 1992.
KRITONOS 8 85767 06331 0 [72:24]
 
Tennessee-born Zumbro’s credentials can be traced back to his training at Juilliard and with a wide span of European teachers. International tours have been accommodated alongside teaching at Juilliard, Indiana University, University of Hawaii and the University of Arizona. There have also been master-classes in Europe, China, Korea, Iceland and the USA. Zumbro is a composer with a catalogue that includes music for Euripides' Hippolytus, an opera Kassandra,which was premiered in Greece in 1990, children's songs and other vocal works.
 
This pianist leaves you with the sense, all too often glided over by super-technicians, of a human being wrestling with the unlikely mechanical device that is the piano. He translates Granados’s hugely challenging Goyescas into sound that speaks to the listener. Zumbro bridges the chasm yet preserves that fragile humanity without compromising the poetry that is at the heart of this cycle. The last time I heard something like this was many years ago on two long-lost Saga LPs from the Spanish pianist, Mario Miranda. For me the apex is reached in Fandango de candil where majesty and heroic endeavour are touchingly put across. There’s nicely judged attention to fine dynamic shading in El amor y la muerte - tender indeed. This is also what we hear from Zumbro with the God-given melody that floats free in de Falla’s Pantomima from El Amor Brujo. Lest there be any misunderstanding Zumbro can also big it up as he does in the explosive Pelele with which the cycle begins.
 
This is the full version of Goyescas, complete with El Pelele, Crepuscolo and Intermezzo.
 
The piano is a Bösendorfer Concert Grand and the recording was taken down by none other than Mike Skeet, a recording engineer we hear too little from but who was much connected with the Ensemble and British Music Label companies. It would be nice to know exactly where in London this was recorded. The bass is sumptuous and the treble rings true without harshness.
 
This is a disc from Zumbro’s own label and the only number I have is the scan code.
 
There is a companion as well which appears to have been set down in London at the same time: Ives’ Concord Sonata and Barber’s Sonata.
 
Is this the world’s best Goyescas? I don’t know the field well enough but it is one of the most poetic and memorable I have heard. Do not miss it if you have any affection for this superb work in which elusive sensitivity, subtlety and romance meets the romance of Iberia.
 
Rob Barnett