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53 Studies on Chopin Études 1
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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (1912-16) [53:46]
Crepúsculo (Goyescas) [4:45]
Jácara [5:06]
Reverie-Improvisation (1916) [5:03]
Intermezzo (from opera Goyescas) (1916) [2:43]
El Pelele (Escena Goyesca) (1914) [3:05]
José Menor (piano)
rec. Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Granada, 2016
IBS CLASSICAL IBS82017 [77:10]

The powerful audio image accorded to José Menor for this long-playing CD is both its blessing and its curse. A blessing because not a detail escapes such close-up attention; a curse because the illusion of quiet playing can only be suggested in token rather than consummately achieved. If your taste runs to sound that has you at dazzlingly close-quarters with the piano then you are in for a treat. The effect is relentlessly lapel-grabbing and to my ears soon tends to becomes overpowering … and, no - changing the volume does not help. As a piano-student's study-aid of the score bar-by-bar and note-by-note you could hardly ask for better. Make no mistake, there are delights here but the fact remains that more distance would have lent greater enchantment as a musical appreciation listening experience.

Among my favourite alternatives - so much so that I tracked down the LPs and transferred them rather ham-fistedly to CD - is Chilean Mario Miranda's 1974 2-LP version on the rather unreliable rice and emery-paper surfaces presented by Saga (STXID 5343-4 or Saga-Pan 6222). The intrinsic sound cannot compare but in that case the image in every particular is a complementary companion to the playing. I should add that there are, in addition, reputedly excellent versions from de Larrocha, Rajna, Ohlsson, Celis and Ortiz among others and most of those are more recent than the ancient Miranda.

Allowing for microphone placement decisions, Menor's remains a unique and potently dramatic Goyescas. Listen to the poetry he achieves in the closing pages of Los Requiebros. The most candidly Hispanic flavour comes across in El fandango del candil where Menor is excellent in pacing and control. He establishes a regal palace of sound. Then there's the sombre thunder of El Amor y la Muerte. He is just as effective in the gentle evocation of twilight and in the capering Espectro of the main Goyescas finale.

Another thing that marks out this disc as of great value is the choice of fillers. El Pelele is an accustomed addition but Menor also adds the delightfully tentative and starrily playful Crepusculo, in its world premiere recording. This piece is based on the only known manuscript from the Museu de la Musica, Barcelona. Sitting on that work's shoulders is the 1916 Reverie-Improvisation which takes Crepusculo as its departure point. Jácara (Danza para cantar y bailar) is vigorously full-on - a dance for singing and dancing. It uses a theme from Goyescas and this is most beautifully touched in by Menor. To extend the timing Menor adds the imperious, stalking and pearly descents of Intermezzo from the little heard and little recorded opera Goyescas. Such a pity that Menor and IBS could not have found some way of adding another Goyescas cousin: Serenata Goyesca, but space would not permit.

There's a truly superb booklet with a lengthy essay by Menor that is informative, reflective, wide-ranging and unafraid. He gives his own opinion and supports it rather than just reporting others' assessments. This evidences not only his own long-term study but also that he has worked with the Granados family whose encouragement he notes. The essay includes reference to two music examples in facsimile from the manuscript.

An estimable Goyescas and related outliers but make sure before buying that you are happy with the fearlessly forward sound.

Rob Barnett


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