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Femmes d'Espagne
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Cuatro Piezas españolas No 4: Andaluza (1909) [4:20]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Femmes d'Espagne (1916) [16:43]
Ernesto HALFFTER (1905-1989)
Danza de la Pastora [3:46]
Danza de la Gitana [4:02]
José Muñoz MOLLEDA (1905-1988)
Farruca (1940) [3:25]
Emilio LEHMBERG RUIZ (1905-1959)
Fandango de Málaga (1957) [3:37]
Ángel BARRIOS (182-1964)
Albaycinera (1952) [2:59]
Joaquín GONZÁLEZ PALOMARES (1868-1951)/ Manuel del CAMPO (b.1930)
Serenata Tánger (1946)
Eduardo OCÓN y RIVAS (1833-1901)
Amor inmortal (c.1867-70) [5:32]
Estudio capricho para la mano izquierda Op 10 (c.1867-70) [6:15]
Gran vals brilliante (c.1867-70) [5:57]
Paula Coronas (piano)
Rec. August 2020 Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Spain
IBS CLASSICAL IBS22021 [61:05]

The title here, Spanish ladies, is taken from Joaquin Turina's Mujeres Españolas and the choice of French for the title alludes to the fact that many Spanish composers studied or resided in France; from this collection that certainly includes De Falla, Turina, Barrios, Halffter and Ocón. Indeed the first work here, Andaluza by Manuel de Falla was premiered in Paris by Spanish pianist Riccardo Viñes. Spanish nationalism is another theme that runs though the programme, particularly the strong cultural personality of Andalusia, with composers from that region: De Falla born in Cadiz, Barrios in Granada, Turina in Seville and Palomares 'the Sarasate from Málaga' as he was nicknamed by the violinist and composer Charles de Bériot.

The opening Andaluza is a startlingly bright opening to this recital leading wonderfully into Turina's first set of female portraits. There is nothing shy or retiring about these ladies and all are painted in vibrant colours accompanied by energetic dance rhythms; the chotis, a dance from Madrid suitably chosen to open La Madrileña Clásica (the typical woman from Madrid) closely followed by the pasadoble, seguidilla and others. A whole host of emotions colour the thoughtful portrait of the Andaluza sentimental (sentimental Andalusian) and there is a vigorous dance, a Manchegan seguidilla for La Morena Coqueta (the brunette coquette), a portrayal of a real woman, a waitress at Turina's usual haunt in Madrid. These are terrific pieces and a real discovery for me. Turina's writing is virtuosic and exciting, sensitive, expressive and vivid by turns.

Equally vivid are the two portraits by de Falla's pupil Ernesto Halffter. Again these are in the form of dances, the first of the Shepherdess and the second the Gypsy Girl and I was reminded more than anything of Albéniz and his suite Iberia in the driving rhythms and turns of harmony. José Muñoz Molleda who studied with Ottorino Respighi wrote light music as well as film scores; these include the film adaption of Granados' zarzuela Goyescas. His gripping flamenco Farruca was recorded on guitar by Narciso Yepes but here we have the original piano version. Emilio Lehmberg Ruiz was the son of a shipwrecked sailor and the daughter of the family that looked after him. Misfortune evidently looked poorly on the family as the composer himself was run over by a train at the age of 53. His Fandango de Málaga, taken from his Spanish Dances Suite is another folk dance full of high drama and spiky rhythms. Andalusian dances abound here and Albaycinera by Ángel Barrios is similar in mood though like the Turina there is a greater range of emotion within its short span and the build up to the end is exhilarating. The Tangier serenade by Joaquín Gonzalez Palomares was originally written for orchestra; this highly effective transcription is by Manuel del Campo y del Campo who heard Palomares conduct the work in 1950 and passed the work on to the Paula Coronas who plays it here. It shares its companions' energy but has a more sultry atmosphere.

The recital closes with three works by a composer from an earlier generation than the others recorded here. After initial studies in his home town of Málaga, Eduardo Ocón y Rivas spent time in Paris, where he studied under Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896), and in Brussels before returning to Málaga, taking up the post of cathedral organist and organiser of the Philharmonic Society. As well as being a generation apart, his music also speaks a different language and it seems odd that on an album so steeped in the intoxicating folk dances of the country the final word should go to music that is from such a different world. Indeed with just the audio to go on I would have placed these three works alongside the music written by the the pianist-composers who resided in Paris of the early 19th century: Henri Herz, Sigismond Thalberg, Camille Stamaty and their ilk. Amor inmortal is a gentle nocturne with delicate accompanying arpeggio figuration and a short impassioned central section. The Etude Caprice for the left hand opens like a nocturne with the more obvious etude-like elements apparent in the arpeggios and octaves at the heart of the piece. It is very well conceived for the instrument and doesn't feel restricted to a single hand. The Gran Vals Brilliante has a little less substance and harmonic interest than its companions but is a jolly romp nonetheless.

I have no qualms about the quality of the music here; stylistic differences aside it makes for a satisfying programme that displays a wide range of Spanish piano music beyond the standard repertoire. The piano sound is quite bright; I had the volume up and the snapped chords that introduce Andaluza sounded quite strident but it is not an unpleasant sound once you have settled into it. The performances are first rate; technically superb and rhythmically taut, I was swept along with the Coronas's passion and infectious enthusiasm. The highlight here for me is Turina's marvellous colouful set of portraits, a collection that deserves to be better known.

Rob Challinor

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