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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas - suite [47.22]
Zapateado [4.06]
Ochos valses poéticos [11.13]
Allegro de concierto [6.44]
Xiayin Wang (piano)
rec. American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 2017
CHANDOS CHAN10995 [69.25]

Granados’ Goyescas was written in the years immediately preceding the First World War and it is one of the crowning achievements of the Romantic piano repertoire. The six pieces which make up the suite were all inspired by paintings by Goya although not all of them have been authoritatively linked to particular paintings. Chinese pianist, Xiayin Wang, has released a number of critically acclaimed recordings recently featuring the music of Ginastera and Rachmaninov.

The first thing to say is that Wang has a prodigious technique which she used to great effect in Goyescas. Los Requiebros (The Compliments) was clean and polished and Wang produced a vast array of tone colours in the various transformations of the theme. Granados’ ornamentation was exquisitely executed and there was a bubbly, capricious feel to the music. However, she was a little cool at some of the climax points and I would have liked to hear more of Granados’ soaring, life affirming passion. Wang conjured up a silky, sensuous feeling in the opening section of the second movement love duet. She spun a web of intricately woven textures and injected a sense of longing into the composer’s rich melodies. Again, I felt there was a reserve in the playing at the climax points and would have liked to hear more of the burning desire in this music. Wang’s performance of El fandango de candil (Fandango by candlelight) was exceptionally good. The swirling triplets were dispatched with virtuoso flair and her handling of the rhythmic intricacies of the piece was an absolute delight.

La maja y el ruiseñor (Maiden and the nightingale) is the most famous piece in the set and it received a ravishing performance here. Granados’ gorgeous melody soared and swooned and Wang injected and array of tone colours into the accompanying textures. The filigree song of the nightingale at the end of the piece was exquisite. El amor y la muerte (Love and death) opened in dramatic fashion and Wang conjured up a brooding intensity and engulfing passions from her Steinway. The music had pathos and eloquence and the solemn interlude just before the end was particularly good. The final Serenata del espectro (Serenade of the spectre) had a hallucinatory quality and the embellishments were unsettling.

So how does Xiayin Wang compare with the great Alicia de Larrocha? There is no doubt that there was some great playing here and at her best (particularly in the Fandango by candlelight and the Maiden and the nightingale) Wang compares well to Larrocha. I was not quite so convinced by the first two pieces in the set although they also contain some very fine playing. Larrocha unleashes more of the passion in the music and she is particularly good at conjuring up atmosphere and distilling the distinctive Spanish idiom. So Larrocha continues to reign supreme in Goyescas but these are exceptionally fine performances from Wang and they are a welcome addition to the Goyescas discography.

In addition to Goyescas Wang offers three further pieces in this generous recital. The Zapateado (Stamping Dance) had an infectious exuberance and the rapid-fire finger-work was executed brilliantly. Ochos valses poéticos is a charming string of waltzes inspired by Schubert. These were performed with an enormous degree of polish and finesse and Wang captured the various shifts of mood within these miniatures brilliantly. The final Allegro de concierto was dispatched with virtuoso firepower and the recital ended with a Lisztian flourish guaranteed to bring the house down in a live recital.

Overall, this is superb playing from Wang and this disc is highly recommended.

Robert Beattie



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