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Dance Passion
Leticia Gómez-Tagle (piano)
rec. 9–11 June 2015, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany
ARS PRODUKTION ARS38183 SACD [78:22]

The theme of this generously filled disc is obviously, as indicated by the title, dance. The pianist, Leticia Gómez-Tagle is clearly very keen on dancing as, according to the interesting notes, she ran a flamenco troupe while still a student. To further emphasise this theme, one of the pictures in the booklet is of her stood, ‘en pointe’ beside the piano.

The interesting programme of the disc starts in Europe and proceeds via Hungary and Poland to the New World, obviously influenced by the fact that Gómez-Tagle studied in Vienna. To begin we have a very assured performance of Liszt’s ‘6th Valse-Caprice’ (on themes by Schubert, S427 no.6). This was once very popular in recital but seems to have declined in popularity of late. This is a shame as it really is a fantastic work, full of Schubertian touches and of Liszt at his most charming. The central A major section is slightly slower than other performances I’ve heard but the piece holds together very well. Next follow two more 'Old World' pieces – two of Chopin’s many Mazurkas: Op.30 no.4 and Op. 17 no.4. These are both played with excellent rhythmic flexibility and the end of the latter melts away quietly and in an unresolved way. There then follows more Chopin – this time the ‘Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise Billiante’ Op.22. The Andante is lovely and smooth and very well played and, when things get going at the start of the Polonaise, there is plenty of fire. Leticia Gómez-Tagle copes extremely well with the virtuosity required in this piece and the conclusion is suitably rousing. Great stuff. In a different sound-world but still in the Old World, we come next to the first two of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances in their solo piano version. Again, these are nicely played and emphasise the Hungarianisms as well as the dance elements.

We then start to move toward the new world with Manuel de Falla’s little ‘Danza del Molinero (Farruca)’ (extracted from the second act of ‘The Three-Cornered Hat’). This is a fun, bouncy little piece full of Spanish mannerisms and a nicely contrasted central section in comparison with the more extrovert outer parts. Next follows part of Albeniz’s Suite Española – specifically ‘Sevilla’. I like the dynamic and rhythmic flexibility shown here. The music is charming and you can hear the jollity in the playing. The middle section at about 2:20 is extremely lovely. I confess to not having heard of the Austrian composer Andraes Neubauer, whose piece ‘Tango-Space’, comes next. According to the notes, he is someone who likes all sorts of music from all sorts of time periods from Bach to pop. This piece starts atonally before becoming more tonal and includes some interesting hand-slapping on the keyboard to emphasise the rhythms. There is a very seductive sounding central section at around 2:00 which oddly reminds me of the same sort of sound-world as Franck’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation in B minor Op.18 - at least near the start. This metamorphoses into something much more modern sounding with the return of slapping and clapping and more boisterous pianism. There are various slower sections which are very nicely played and these are interspersed with more aggressive episodes. This is a very odd piece but rather interesting. Ginastera follows with ‘Malambo’, a 2:30 fugal-sounding dance with some rather scrunchy harmonies. There is plenty of virtuosity here, especially as the piece draws to a close. I also think it would be impossible to dance to this piece. The Argentinean composer Piazzolla is perhaps best known for his ‘Libertango’ and here we have another Tango called ‘Verano Porteño (Tango)’. There are obviously rhythmic similarities with the more famous piece and the musical language is similar. I quite like this little piece; there is a sense of yearning in the Spanish-sounding quieter sections. The Tango rhythms are very prevalent throughout and certainly stick in the mind. It’s rather a fun little piece.

Track 12 is by another composer new to me – Moleiro. His little ‘Joropo’ (written in 1944) reminds me of a super-speeded-up 19th century evocation of Spain by a Western composer. It’s another really fun piece, very cheerful and light-hearted but not at all easy to play, by the sounds of it. Ernesto Nazareth was a prolific 19th century pianist-composer and the piece ‘Perigoso – Tango brasileiro’, is an extremely colourful little tango. This is another work from which the main theme will stick in your mind. The next track is by Ponce and is entitled ‘Malgré tout (Habanera)’ and is much slower and sadder but no less charming. The offset rhythms from about a minute in are lovely and the main theme is wonderful however, the ending of the piece is rather abrupt and unexpected. There is a Gottschalk like introduction to Gomez-Tagle Y del Valle’s (born 1935) piece ‘Si esto es amor – Bolero’, another charming little dance, a million miles away from Chopin and Ravel’s pieces of the same name. Track 14 is a piece by Marquez - composer of the completely bonkers ‘Conga de Fuego’ with his ‘Danzon no.2’, arranged by this pianist for solo piano and approved of by the composer. This piece is full of Tango / Spanish type rhythms and starts slowly before upping the pace at about a minute and a half and going totally over the top at about two minutes. There are stylistic similarities to the famous Conga but the piece is really memorable and fun. There are several slower and more reflective sections which are very well played and beautiful. This is yet another earworm piece, much like the famous Conga I mentioned earlier. Lastly, in a more reflective frame of mind, Sgambati’s lovely transcription of the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ from Orfeo et Euridice by Gluck – another piece once famous and often recorded but now sadly languishing and not often played. This is very nicely played; perhaps the first occurrence of the theme could be a little more beautifully phrased but the flute solo line is excellently done and the whole atmosphere is one of peace but with an underlying dance element.

The playing is superb throughout the disc and much of it is played with a smile; it’s perhaps too much to sit down and listen to in one go but to be sampled when in need of cheering up. Many of the smaller new world pieces are jolly, dance-like and rather fun. I hope to hear more from Leticia Gómez-Tagle as she is clearly a very talented pianist with an interesting take on the Western Classical tradition and a nice mixture of Latin fire included for good measure – just what is needed in this repertoire.

Jonathan Welsh

Track listing
Franz LISZT (1811–1886)
Soirées de Vienne - Valse-caprice No. 6 d’après Schubert (S427 no.6) [6:48]
Frederic CHOPIN (1810–1849)
Mazurka No.21 in C-sharp Minor, Op.30, no.4 [3:50]
Mazurka No.13 in a Minor, Op.17, no.4 [3:39]
Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op.22 [14:10]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
Hungarian Dance No.1 [3:05]
Hungarian Dance No.2 [2:56]
Manuel DE FALLA (1876–1946)
Danza Del Molinero (Farruca) [2:44]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860–1909)
Suite Espagñole – no.3 Sevilla (Sevillanas) [4:52]
Andreas NEUBAUER (b.1959)
Tango-Space [4:57]
Alberto GINASTERA (1916–1983)
Malambo [2:29]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921–1992)
Verano Porteño (Tango) [4:11]
Moisés MOLEIRO (1904–1979)
Joropo [3:19]
Ernesto NAZARETH (1863–1934)
Perigoso - Tango Brasileiro [3:24]
Manuel Maria PONCE (1882–1948)
Malgré Tout (Habanera) [3:05]
Gómez-Tagle Y DEL VALLE (b.1935)
Si Ésto Es Amor. Bolero [1:59]
Arturo MARQUEZ (b.1950)
Danzón No.2 (arr. Leticia Gómez-Tagle) [8:44]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
Tanz Der Seligen Geister (transcr. Giovanni Sgambati) [3:05]

 

 




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