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Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia - Volume 2: Books 3 & 4
El Albaicin [7:16]
El Polo [7:02]
Lavapiés [6:57]
Malaga [5:24]
Jerez [10:12]
Eritaña [5:28]
Alexander Boyd (piano) (Steinway D585689)
rec. St Bartholomew's, Brighton, UK, 16-18 November 2014
24bit/192kHz High Definition Stereo
Reviewed in DVD-A format
CLAUDIO DVD-A CR6023-6 [42:23]

In my review of Volume 1, Books 1 and 2, I mentioned that Books 3 and 4 had been recorded for later release, and here they are. What follows is an appendix to the earlier review.

These twelve pieces are amongst the last examples of Spanish nationalist music, along with Granados's Goyescas. Iberia draws deeply on Spanish folk music, particularly the flamenco tradition. For this reason the finest performances on record are likely to come from pianists most deeply schooled in that rhythmically and harmonically subtle genre. Thus Alexander Boyd is up against, essentially, two alternatives, Alicia de Larrocha and more recently the excellent version on Hyperion by Marc-André Hamelin, which seems to have excited many critics. de Larrocha, once lauded as the greatest pianist in Spanish history, recorded the cycle no less than three times, Hamelin (so far) just once. Not unexpectedly de Larrocha is in a class of her own and at almost any point in these two books her insights are both different and uniquely convincing. A fellow reviewer remarked on her sounding 'sun-soaked'. As in Boyd's performances of the first two books, each of the six pieces on this disc is expertly played and wholly convincing as a small tone-picture. The few comparisons I made between him and de Larrocha merely served to enhance respect for Albéniz, and that is no bad thing. I think one has to have at least one of de Larrocha's recordings but alongside that Boyd will do as well as anyone.

The notes, again by Gemma Kateb, are thorough and helpful in grasping the music. In spreading this 80+ minute work over two discs, both on DVD-A and on CD, Claudio have not been unreasonable. The data space needed for these very high resolution recordings does not allow them on just one DVD - the CD version, which would fit on one disc at a pinch, is issued on two discs simply to match. Once again, in Books 3 and 4, the recording per se is simply in a class of its own.

Dave Billinge

Previous review: Des Hutchinson



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