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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas – Los Majos Enamorados [57:20]
Frederico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Variations on a Theme of Chopin [20.35]
Sofya Melikyan (Piano)
rec. 2017, Flagey, Studio 1, The Netherlands
ETCETERA KTC1607 [77.55]

In the programme notes to this CD, Armenian pianist, Sofya Melikyan, states that she spent a decade in Spain “immersed in this colourful country’s daily life, culture and music”. She has won a number of international piano competitions and she clearly feels an affinity with Spanish music. In this recording she tackles Granados’ Goyescas which is one of the pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire together with Mompou’s Variations on Chopin’s Prelude in A.

Granados wrote Goyescas in 1911 and it is regarded by many as his crowning achievement. The work was inspired by the paintings of Goya although the individual pieces have not been linked to particular paintings. Melikyan has clearly studied the score in great depth and there is close attention to detail throughout. Her performance of Los Requiebros is stylish and tasteful and there are nice tonal and textural contrasts. However, I felt the performance was a little too studied and would have welcomed a greater sense of spontaneity and flow. Melikyan creates a wonderful feeling of space in Conversation at the Window and captures the brooding sensuality of the piece. The dancing rhythms of the Fandango by Candlelight are well executed although I wondered if there was scope for greater flexibility – occasionally the playing sounded a little fixed and rigid.
I loved the ruminative opening of the Girl and the Nightingale and the ensuing love song soars and swoons placing us under a heady Romantic spell. The filigree song of the nightingale is played with perfectly calibrated touch and timbre. The Ballad of Love and Death opens in dramatic fashion and Melikyan does a good job whipping up Granados’ turbulent pianistic textures. I wondered if there was scope to use a wider palette of colours and range of dynamics in this piece. Melikyan does an excellent job depicting the shifting moods in Serenade to a Spectre and the sultry slow section immediately before the end of the piece is particularly beautiful. The grotesque, hallucinatory elements are depicted well although I have heard them portrayed more vividly in other performances of the work.

Mompou wrote his Variations on a Theme of Chopin in 1957 and it is one of his most elaborate works. Melikyan’s performance is nuanced and expressive and one has the sense of her probing every nook and crevice of the piece. There is a high level of technical finish and attention to detail. The transformation of the theme into the dances most closely associated with Chopin such as the mazurka and the valse was conveyed winningly. Melikyan’s performance of the 17th variation which weaves in a melody from Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu is gorgeous. The final gallop and denouement bring the piece to a successful conclusion.

Overall, there is much to admire in Melikyan’s performance which successfully conveys the distinctive Spanish character of this music. Her performance of Goyescas is uneven and she cannot match the inimitable Alicia de Larrocha in this repertoire. Melikyan’s performance of the Mompou variations is more successful and she does an excellent job capturing the highly expressive moods and half-lights in the shifting transformations of Chopin’s theme.

Robert Beattie

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