Xavier MONTSALVATGE(1912-2002) Piano Music 3: Music for two Pianos Barcelona Blues (1956/1961) [5:16] Calidoscopio (1990)
[13:13] Homenatge (1998) [1:58] Tres Divertimentos sobre
Temas de Autores Olvidados (1941/1983) [6:36] Sum Vermis, for soprano, two pianos and two percussionists
(1973) [15:24] + Cinco Invocaciones al Crucificado, for voice, piano, celesta,
harp, three flutes, double bass and five percussionists (1969) [20:31]
Jordi Masó (piano)
Miquel Villalba (piano II, *celesta)
Pia Freund (soprano); +Ferran Carceller (percussion); +Miquel Àngel
Martínez (percussion); *Ensemble Barcelona 216/*+Ernest Martínez
rec. Auditori de Barcelona, Spain, 13-17 July 2011. DDD NAXOS SPANISH CLASSICS 8.572636 [63:14]
Perhaps surprisingly for those to whom his name is still unfamiliar,
Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge is fairly well represented
on CD, with five recordings available, for example, of the Concierto
Breve and more still of the Sonatine pour Yvette.
The recently-founded Xavier Montsalvatge society
provides a huge, comprehensive discography.
This is the third volume in Naxos's survey of the piano music,
all performed by Jordi Masó (previous volumes on 8.570744
and 8.570756). There is assistance from others as required -
the Granollers Chamber Orchestra on the first two discs, and
here by various musicians and ensembles, since these recordings
are by no means a simple 'music for two pianos' the front cover
Montsalvatge's music is nothing if not eclectic, ranging across
a number of styles, particularly neo-classicism and impressionism.
Many of his works also draw on serialism and polytonality, and
in later years he was seen as part of the European avant-garde.
All these ingredients pop up in various arrangements on this
CD. However, things begin sensibly at the more approachable
end with the very Gershwinesque Barcelona Blues, one
of Montsalvatge's most popular works. In the short Homenatge
('Homage'), written for Alicia de Larrocha to play at a tribute
concert in honour of the great soprano María de los Ángeles,
Montsalvatge quotes freely from the Catalan folksong El Cant
dels Ocells, which she and Pau Casals between them made
famous. The punchy Three Divertimentos bring some exotic
flavour into the mix - rhythms and melodies from Scotland and
Variety is the keynote of Calidoscopio too, in which
Montsalvatge delivers a dazzling array of styles promised in
the title, yet all still in a highly accessible idiom. He even
quotes his own Barcelona Blues. Jordi Masó and
Miquel Villalba give suitably laid-back but technically poised
accounts of these works.
On the whole, melody is seldom far away in Montsalvatge's music
and an attractive Spanish/Catalan - or more accurately, Latino
- colour is splashed across much of it. In the final two works,
though, there is some indication of what endeared Montsalvatge
to modernists. Arguably, Sum Vermis and the Five Invocations
are out of place on a CD of piano music - vocal works are not
usually included in such anthologies. At any rate, Sum Vermis
('I am (a) Worm') is a stark, gloomy work that revels in the
‘miserabilism’ of the Catalan poem by Jacint Verdaguer
it brings to life. It seems rather perverse, however, for Naxos
to have asked Pia Freund to perform this work. As good as her
voice is, she is Finnish rather than Catalan, and her training
in the language seems rather basic. Some Catalan sequences prove
too difficult for her, and clarity of enunciation suffers at
times. Unfortunately, the multilingual texts of the Cinco
Invocaciones are even more demanding of a polyglot ability.
Freund makes a valiant attempt, but she is always the foreigner
with the slight accent.
Be that as it may, neither of these is a piano work by any stretch,
but they are recorded rarities and for anyone with an
ear sympathetic to late Stravinsky or Orff, likely to prove
memorable, especially given the impressive instrumental performances
on offer here.
Sound quality is very good, warm and intimate. Jordi Masó's
booklet notes are detailed and well written/translated. The
sung texts are all included in the booklet except the middle
of the five Incantations, which for some reason is omitted.
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