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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas No.4 – Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor (1911) [5:27]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Suita Española Op.47 (1882-9) [37:24]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes Bk.1 la sérénade interrompue (1909-10) [2:23]
Préludes Bk.2 la puerta del vino (1912-13) [3:34]
Estampes No.2 la Soirée dans Grenade (1903) [5:18]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Miroirs No. 4 Alborada del Gracioso (1904-5) [7:29]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El amor brujo – ritual fire dance (1915) [3:49]
Teo Gheorghiu (piano)
rec. June 2020 at Théâtre populaire romand, Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds

El duende is the spirit of evocation, that wellspring of unconscious response to art; it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, both beyond sadness or joy. It is usually associated with flamenco but Gheorghiu describes Duende for him as going beyond artists, beyond art, beyond man – it is where our very primal core meets divinity. He goes on to say that the music here chose itself and the link between them all is clear, the evocation of Spain, its sights, smells, sounds and its heart. Gheorghiu is certainly in touch with that and his performances are vivid and vital; his rubato is natural and there is a wry humour and swagger to many of the rhythms.

He opens with the most familiar of Granados' Goyescas, the Maiden and the nightingale. This has a real sense of travel with flexible phrasing and delicious birdsong at the end. The Suita Española is here divided into two groups of four pieces that book-end Spanish influenced pieces by Debussy and Ravel. He conjures an evocative impression of long, languid days and sun-drenched exuberance in all these pieces, elements that are contrasted perfectly in Debussy's la Soirée dans Grenade and la puerta del vino with its layers of colour exquisitely fashioned by Gheorghiu. He expresses colour and timbre marvellously; just listen to the central section of Sevillana, the third of the Suita Española with its otherworldly atmosphere or Capricho where he finds a superb variety of touch. In Alborada del Gracioso I feel that the jester's capering is a little polite; it could certainly be a little more carefree; at over 7 minutes this is the longest of the more than 25 versions I have but there is no questioning the beauty and quality of the playing. I am a little surprised by the relatively slow speed he takes here as he otherwise generally quite effervescent; just try the Fantasia or Seguidillas. In the fantasia Aragon (Suita Española 6) he chooses to ignore the false start back into the main dance after the A major serenade section; instead of playing the 3 bars of dominant 7th in F sharp that only resolve into F major at the last minute he launches straight back into the F major tonality. It sounds less jarring but surely that edginess was what Albéniz wanted, much like the wrong note B naturals in the left hand of the main tune that Rena Kyriakou makes so much of in her recording of the suite (Turnabout LP TNL 25033). He rounds off the recital with a colouful Ritual fire dance.

Swiss-Canadian pianist Teo Gheorghiu was born in Zurich and studied with Daniel Höxter, William Fong and Gary Graffman. He made a great impression on me last year when I saw him in recital playing Enescu, Debussy and Ravel, a wonderful La valse; I was looking forward to hearing this CD and despite the minor quibble with the Ravel on the whole he makes a strong impression here too. There is distinct flair and imagination in his playing and his piano sound is always beautiful even in dense textures. His recorded sound is rich and vivid without harsh brightness. The booklet is adorned with photos of the pianist in stark contrasted tones, perfectly in keeping with the sunny climes painted in our imaginations by this colourful music.

Rob Challinor

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