Federico MOMPOU (1893 – 1987)
Complete Songs - Volume 2
Marta Mathéu (soprano), Jordi Masó (piano)
rec. Auditori ‘Can Roig i Torres’, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain, 2013
No texts enclosed
NAXOS 8.573100 [61:18]

Catalan composer Federico Mompou is one of those figures who hover somewhere in the periphery of the musical landscape: not a household name but not completely unknown either. He seems to have been a reticent person who couldn’t market his compositions but his piano music has not disappeared and some of his songs have been performed by leading Spanish singers. Victoria de los Angeles is one of those. Interest in his music has grown of late and his piano works are available in at least two complete cycles: Martin Jones on Nimbus (review ~ review) and Jordi Masó on Naxos (vol. 4, vol. 5, vol. 6) not to mention the composer's own recordings on Brilliant Classics. Masó is also the pianist on this Naxos project to record the complete songs, of which the present disc is volume 2. For some reason I missed the first volume and after hearing this disc I have ordered that one too. A couple of months ago I reviewed another collection of Mompou songs with tenor Roger Padullés (review) and that whetted the appetite for more.

There is some overlapping between the Mathéu and Padullés: Six of the Comptines and the suite Becquerianas and several of the individual songs as well. Readers who bought Padullés and are reluctant to have too many duplications in their collection should still consider the new disc since with different voice-types we get another perspective on the songs.

The songs on the present disc, spanning a period of almost 45 years, are not presented in chronological order. The differences between the earliest and the latest are not very marked. Mompou seems to have found his style early but was flexible in his treatment of the texts. He has a distinct voice and more often than not you find a melody that catches you. Sant Marti (tr. 2) is one, really lovely example, and listen to the very special accompaniment in El niño mudo (tr. 3) to a text by Lorca. Cançó de la fira and Primero pasos (tr. 5-6) are also easy to like and all the eight Comptines (Counting rhymes) are entertaining and charming. There are serious songs as well, like Le nuage (tr. 15) and El testament d’Amélia (tr. 19). Ave Maria (tr. 20) is a setting of the traditional Latin prayer and, especially as sung here, has a hypnotic quality. Marta Mathéu sings with such identification that one is hooked.

The relatively late Becquerianas – settings of poems by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836 – 1870) – may open up a little unwillingly at first but repeated listening pays dividends and there are gems here that may become friends forever. The last of them, Olas gigantes (Towering waves) is a dramatic masterpiece.

The disc ends with El viaja definitive (The final journey) from 1947 to a text by Nobel Prize-winner Juan Ramón Jiménez. It’s a moving song, sung a cappella.

Masó is well inside the Mompou idiom and plays the piano parts to the manner born. Mathéu was born in Tarragona and studied there and later in Valencia. The list of her vocal teachers includes Montserrat Caballé, Elena Obraztsova and François Le Roux. She has a beautiful and expressive voice and apart from a couple of strained top notes her singing is confident and technically accomplished. First and foremost, though, she communicates the songs in exemplary manner. It is a pity that the texts are not included. Many of them can be found, however, here in Lynell Joy Kruckeberg’s Frederic Mompou: A Style Analysis of thirty-five songs with English translations.

Song enthusiasts should without delay get hold of one or other recording of Mompou’s songs. Why not the present one?

Göran Forsling

Track listing
1. Cançoneta incerta (Little song of uncertainty) (1928) [2:49]
2. Sant Marti (St Martin) (1961) [3:16]
3. El niño mudo (The mute boy) (1955) [1:59]
4. Aureana do Sil (Goldpanners of the Sil) (1951) [2:27]
5. Cançó de la fira (Song of the fair) (1949) [2:35]
6. Primeros pasos (First steps) (1964) [2:35]
Comptines (Counting rhymes (8))
7. No. 1 Dalt d’un cotxe (On a carriage) (1926) [0:44]
8. No. 2 Margot la pie (Margot the magpie) (1926) [1:49]
9. No. 3 J’ai vu dans la lune (On the moon I saw) (1926) [0:48]
10. No. 4 Aserrin, aserrán (1943) [1:37]
11. No. 5 Petite fille de Paris (Little girl from Paris) (1943) [2:02]
12. No. 6 Pito pito colorito (1943) [1:05]
13. No. 7 Frédéric tic tic (1948) [0:53]
14. No. 8 Rossignol joli (Pretty nightingale) (c 1948) [1:09]
15. Le nuage (The Cloud) (1928) [3:48]
16. Cant de la victória (Song of victory) (1949) [1:17]
17. El sento que véns (I hear you coming) (1944) [2:06]
18. Ets l’infinit (You are infinity) (1944) [1:37]
19. El testament d’Amèlia (Amèlia’s last will and testament) (1938) [3:57]
20. Ave Maria (1957) [3:50]
Becquerianas (6) (1970)
21. No. 1 Hoy la tierra y los cielos me sonrien (Today earth and heaven smile upon me) [1:55]
22. No. 2 Los invisibles átomos del aire (The invisible atoms of the air) [1:48]
23. No. 3 Yo soy ardiente, yo soy morena (I am passionate, I am dark) [1:24]
24. No. 4 Yo sé cuál et objeto (I know the reason why) [3:37]
25. No. 5 Volverán las oscuras golondrinas (The black swallows will return) [4:33]
26. No. 6 Olas gigantes (Towering waves) [2:15]
27. El viaje definitive (The final journey) (1947) [1:53]

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