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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Martin Jones (piano)
rec. 1995/2000, Concert Hall of the Nimbus Foundation, Wyastone Leys, UK
NIMBUS NI7729 [72:33]

Granados is best remembered, and rightly so, for his marvellous piano suite Goyescas, composed shortly before his early death, and one of the pinnacles of Spanish piano music. However, he had a long previous career, which included composing several operas, some chamber music – the piano quintet and piano trio are particularly attractive – and a great deal of piano music, a selection of which appears here.

Granados was himself an excellent pianist, much given to improvisation and to embellishing the works he was scheduled to play to an enormous extent. Much of the music on this disc sounds to me like improvisations which he has written down: there are simple tunes covered with a plethora of notes and occasional bravura passages to show off speed and skill.

The choice of works here seems to be based simply on what the pianist Martin Jones thought would appeal most after excluding Goyescas. That is a bit like Hamlet without the prince, but listeners who already know that masterwork may well be curious as to what preceded it. Jones is a consummate pianist with an enviable facility. He has a large recorded repertoire, including a great deal of Spanish music, and this recital is in fact selected from his complete cycle of Granados’s piano music.

So we have bravura pieces such as the opening Allegro de Concierto and two of the Escenas románticas, dreamy nocturnes such as Elisenda, which features bell sounds, or the following Berceuse and the brooding ‘Winter’. Some of the pieces remind me of Liszt’s evocations of landscapes in the Swiss book of the Années de pèlerinage, such as the Landscape and some of the Escenas poeticas II. Interestingly, the earlier Escenas románticas generally show a simpler and more varied texture than the other works here, and I particularly like the dramatic Lento and the dreamy interlude in the Allegro appassionato.

However, I have to say that none of the pieces here is a world-beater. They are all pleasant but rather forgettable, and rather too much like one another. This is no fault of Martin Jones, whose playing is always fluent and musical, and whose nimble fingers can negotiate the most complicated passages. The recording is very clear; at first it seemed rather close but the ear soon adjusts. There is a sleeve-note, in English only, which gives an outline of Granados’s career but says nothing about the pieces included. They are attractive pieces, but, frankly, second-rate. If you want first-rate Granados stick to Goyescas.

Stephen Barber

Allegro de concierto, Op. 46 (1904) [7:19]
Oriental, cancion, variada, intermedio y final [10:36]
Elisenda [5:41]
Escenas poéticas: I. Berceuse [4:06]
Libro de horas (The Book of Hours): II. ‘El invierno’ (Winter) [4:31]
Paisaje, Op. 35: [5:44]
Escenas poéticas (Landscape II) [11:15]
I. Recuerdo de paises lejanos (Remembrance of distant countries) [2:16]
II. El ángel de los claustros (The angel of the cloisters) [3:33]
III. Canción de Margarita (Song of Margarita) [1:34]
IV. Sueños del poeta (Dreams of the poet) [3:52]
Estudio (Study) [3:18]
Escenas románticas (excerpts) [19:51]
II. Berceuse – Lento [3:08]
III. Lentocon extasis [5:27]
IV. Allegretto [1:10]
V. Allegro appassionato [8:02]
VI. Epilogo – Andante spianato – con exaltacion poetica [2:04]

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