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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Chamber Music with Piano
Piano Trio Op. 50 (1895) [25:55]
Madrigal for cello and piano (1915) [5:51]
Danza gallega for cello and piano (1899) [5:07]
Trova for cello and piano (1912) [5:39]
Tres preludios for violin and piano (undated) [3:27]
Sonata for violin and piano (1895) [19:47]
Trio Rodin (Carles Puig (violin), Esther García (cello), Jorge Mengotti (piano))
rec. 2-3 June 2013, Kulturni Center Lopze Bratuž, Gorica.
ÆVEA AE16013 [72:25]

Granados is rightly best known for his piano suite Goyescas, one of the pinnacles of Spanish piano music. However, he was a prolific composer, with, for example, some ten operas to his name, as well as orchestral music, chamber music and songs. Much of this work has dropped out of sight but here we have an opportunity to explore some of his chamber works.

This issue is built around his Piano Trio, with the remainder of the disc featuring works for violin or cello with piano. They are all performed by members of Trio Rodin, an engaging ensemble with a winning way. They are all Spanish but they met at Utrecht and have strong links with the Netherlands. The violinist and cellist play on instruments on loan from a Dutch foundation and the sleeve-note gives the details. Incidentally, on reading these I felt at once that all recordings, at least of solo and chamber works, should give details of the instruments used.

The Piano Trio dates from 1895 and is one of two big chamber works Granados premiered in that year, the other being the Piano Quintet. It is in the international late-Romantic style, somewhere between Brahms and Fauré and none the worse for that. There is not a trace of the Spanish idioms characteristic of Goyescas. It is in the traditional four movements, starting with an expansive sonata allegro. The scherzo which follows is fast and requires nimble pianism; I thought of the scherzo of the Ravel piano trio – but that came nearly twenty years later. The slow movement is lyrical and the finale rather Brahmsian, with energetic themes and a good deal of rhythmic zest. Perhaps you feel the lack of a really individual voice but it is an attractive work which deserves wider circulation. There is not much competition though I did notice a Naxos version (8.572262) which couples it with the Quintet.

This is followed here by a group of works for cello and piano, all of which are arrangements from other media, respectively a projected song-cycle, a chamber orchestra work and an orchestral suite. Madrigal is one of those lyrical cello works which can so easily be pulled out of shape by over-expressive playing. I am pleased to report that the players maintain the line and the shape. The Danza gallega is based on a regional dance from Galicia and here one can hear some Spanish style breaking through. Trova is based on the story of a troubadour. It is a nice story but the piece expands a bit, and, indeed, all three of these works slightly outstay their welcome.

The Romanza for violin and piano is a simple song-like work with some attractive modulations. A contrasting middle section sends the violin to stratospheric heights. Carles Puig has lovely tone and phrasing but tends to press on the sharp side of the note and you notice the discrepancy with the piano.

The three preludes for violin and piano are tiny pieces. I found myself thinking that here Granados meets Webern, though the brevity is the only point of contact. The first prelude is just a couple of phrases; the second finds time for several changes of mood within little more than a minute and the third is quiet and withdrawn. The sleeve-note is silent about these little works.

Finally we have the violin sonata. This is an intriguing might-have-been. Granados began the score also in that significant year of 1895 but never finished it. Until recently only the first movement was known and published. Trio Rodin explored the archives and found the second movement, of which this recording is the premiere, and the beginnings of two more movements, which are included as torsos. This would have been an expansive work in the French style, with an obvious debt to Franck’s violin sonata. It is a shame that it was never finished. Although I am a great enthusiast for conjectural completions and would be very happy for someone to have a go with this, I do wonder whether there is not enough of the last two movements to work with.

I was very taken with the playing of this team, as a trio and as two duos. The string players each have a lovely tone and musical phrasing and the pianist is nimble and imaginative. This disc is a worthwhile calling-card for them. The recording was made in a good acoustic for chamber music. The sleeve-note is uncredited and the English version slightly stilted; the other languages offered are Spanish and Catalan. I now hope that Trio Rodin find two colleagues and give us Granados’ Piano quintet.
Stephen Barber



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