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Manuel María PONCE (1882–1948)
Complete Piano Works - 1
Estrellita - Metamorfosis de Concierto [3:42]
Preludio Mexicano 'Cielito Lindo' [0:57]
A la Orilla de un Palmar [3:43]
Serenata Mexicana 'Alevántate' [2:35]
Valentina [1:13]
Ven, ¡Oh Luna! [2:40]
Preludio Mexicano 'Cuiden Su Vida' [3:52]
Arrulladora Mexicana 'La Rancherita' [2:28]
Barcarola Mexicana 'Xochimilco' [2:40]
Mañanitas [0:41]
Scherzino Mexicano [1:31]
Scherzino Maya [0:50]
Intermezzo no.1 [2:56]
Mazurka de Salón in A flat* [1:56]
Mazurka in D minor * [2:32]
Mazurka a la Española [3:16]
Preludio Romántico [1:50]
Deux Etudes [3:31]
Sonatina [10:26]
Cuatro Danzas Mexicanas [6:13]
Álvaro Cendoya (piano)
rec. Amezketa, Guipuzkoa, Spain, 28-30 June 2012. DDD
GRAND PIANO GP 638 [59:33]

This is the first of eight volumes from Grand Piano offering the complete solo piano music of Mexican composer Manuel Ponce. Though best known for his influential guitar works, which his friend Andrés Segovia lauded and promoted, and a number of which are now part of every guitarist's repertory, Ponce wrote fluently in most genres, leaving a substantial and impressive corpus to posterity.
Nevertheless, this first disc does not make an immediate case for Ponce's piano music. Though taken from across the composer's career, most of the pieces performed here by Basque-Iranian pianist Álvaro Cendoya are little more than bagatelles, of a nature such that they might have been improvised by Ponce on rainy days stuck indoors at the keyboard. The stylistically eclectic Sonatina, itself diminutive by most measures, dwarfs the rest in terms of length.
Yet Ponce was by all accounts a terrific pianist and his music is nothing if not idiomatic and evocative. As some of the titles here suggest, he combines lyrical nationalism, stemming from his interest in folk/traditional music, with mild-mannered Romanticism to rustle up a series of attractive miniatures brimming with warm tunes and casual elegance. His best known work, Estrellita, appears in its piano version, and many will recognise the classic mariachi tune of the Mexican Prelude; some pianophiles may be familiar with the Intermezzo too. Paolo Mello's booklet notes describe the material of this initial recital as ranging "from European-influenced Romanticism to nationalist Romanticism and indigenous nationalism, and on again to advanced modernism". This is chiefly true, although any modernist leanings detectable here are very modest.
Cendoya, professor at the Basque Conservatory of Music, already has two CDs to his credit for Naxos, the piano and chamber music of one of the Basque Country's most significant composers, Tomás Garbizu (8.557630, 8.572096). He will not have been stretched by much of this programme, which is at any rate rather short and contains only five minutes of premieres, but he makes it an enjoyable experience for the listener nonetheless. Sound quality, whilst not jaw-dropping, is good, and the English-Spanish notes informative and well written/translated.
Though this opener is not a must-have, it augurs well on the whole for the rest of the series, which should bring a better look at what Mello calls Ponce's "vast gamut of harmonic sonorities, stylistic variation and tonal riches." If Grand Piano's previous form is anything to go by, the next one will appear sooner rather than later.
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