A number of Mompou series have come and gone. Most, like the one
under review, make no pretence to being complete editions of the solo piano
music. Their aim is to focus on Mompou’s best and most characteristic
writing for the instrument. In this volume, for example, Brazilian pianist
Clélia Iruzun takes three important sets and adds the small scale
to create a good-looking recital that ranges over a
half-century of composition, from 1911 to 1962.
She plays the first six of the cycle of twelve Cançons i
As with almost all performers of their own music, Mompou, who
recorded a mammoth series of his own works in 1974, is a direct, no-nonsense
exponent. When the elderly but still digitally adroit Mompou recorded this
set he was wholly attuned to the dance dynamism inherent, whereas later
performers strive rather to bring out the music’s warmth and
expressivity. These qualities were certainly not alien to Mompou but his
light pedalling and rather dry approach kept sentiment in its place. Thus it
is with Iruzun, whose rich balanced chording illuminates No.5 but whose
second piece sounds rather lingering and a touch studied when set besides
Mompou’s own recording. Nevertheless I certainly prefer her sixth
piece to the performance by Olena Kushpler on Capriccio C5115 who is much
slower and, whilst appealing, somewhat at odds with the tenor of the music.
The cycle Impresiones Intimas
was written between 1911 and
1914. Unlike Cançons i Danses,
of which Kushpler gives us Nos
5-12, Iruzun plays the full set. The two pianists’ qualities prove
complementary. There is little tempo disagreement; indeed they both disagree
with the composer himself in the larghetto of No.2, where hardly anyone (for
once) is as slow as Mompou. They are both explorers of harmony and of
colour. I would only suggest that in the Melancholy Bird
Olena Kushpler sounds just a touch mannered.
is a brief three-movement cycle that is unusually
extroverted for Mompou. The dance, the hermit and the shepherd are all very
well characterised by Iruzun, and the last in particular is a terrific study
where Iruzun is a touch slower and more reserved than in the
composer’s own recording. Finally there is the Variations on a
theme of Chopin
, written over a two-decade span between 1938 and 1957.
This charming, genial set of variations (theme, twelve variations and an
epilogue) form character pieces of great directness and consistency. They
also sound highly attractive, not least in a performance such as this.
With a warm but sufficiently detailed church acoustic, and very
sympathetic performances, this is another Mompou entrant that one can
encounter with confidence.