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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Valses poéticos [13:28]
Capricho español [6:02]
Escenas románticas [27:51]
Estudio [4:44]
Goyescas: “Quejas, ó La maja y el ruiseñor” [5:56]
Allegro de concierto [7:39]
Maria Luisa Cantos (piano)
rec. 2016, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster
Reviewed in stereo & surround
Booklet notes in English, French and German
MDG 904 2003-6 SACD [65:44]

Maria Luisa Cantos gives the impression she’s been playing this music all her life, which is probably no exaggeration, as it’s of her nationality, and she learnt piano from the age of three, qualifying as a teacher at just sixteen. It’s also apropos that the selections on this thoughtfully programmed disc cover most of Granados’s composing life, brief as it was. His most famous piano work, Goyescas, is represented by its biggest hit, The Maiden and the Nightingale.

Granados was a leading figure in the renaissance of Spanish music, at a time when his country witnessed an ironic simultaneity of imperial decline and cultural florescence. His piano writing was characteristic of this revival by embracing central European romanticism typified by Chopin and Schumann while also exploring the cultural heritage of Spain. This could no better be illustrated than in the opening piece on this disc, Valses poéticos, where Granados fashions a suite of subtly scented variations on ‘waltz time’ 3/4. It’s a charming work which Cantos fully reveals, her colours and accents impeccably calibrated. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish aura intensifies with the following Capricho español, its figurations redolent of swirling feet and strumming guitars. The most substantial work, Escenas románticas also coruscates but here the hues are rather more abstract as Granados essays a parody on various musical forms, at times channelling Chopin, at others Liszt, in six contrasting movements. The work ends quietly and reflectively with an epilogue which, as for the whole work, Cantos conveys in masterly fashion its manifold moods and nuances.

The brief but exquisite Estudio is also a model of affective communication, its andantino espressivo direction leaving no doubt. With The Maiden and the Nightingale, it’s always intrigued me that how it’s played seemingly depends on whether one is the maiden or her would-be suitor. Its sensuous beauty encourages pianism of the utmost delicacy and at times ardent passion which, not least, seduces the ear. The sexiest I’ve heard it portrayed is by the nimble-fingered Jean-Marc Luisada in his complete Goyescas of 1992 on DG. Inevitably Alicia de Larrocha also springs to mind, and rather like her 1977 account on Decca, I found Cantos’s a little stern-faced (“the lady’s not for turning”?), its colours and contours more restrained than some, but a pleasurable rendition nevertheless.

Any reserve evaporates, though, as Cantos rips into the final piece of her Granados recital, the Allegro de concierto, a work that cemented the composer’s reputation in his homeland. Again the influence of Liszt is unmistakeable, but equally so is the Iberian spirit. Cantos palpably has the rhythms of this music in her soul, and with the high treble figurations of the final bars, she brings the work to a ‘trilling’ conclusion. On a slightly sour note, I found MDG’s piano sound a little hard and lacking in body throughout, a quality I’ve noted before in recordings from the same venue. This was apparent in both CD and SACD formats. For the recital, though, I have nothing but praise, Maria Luisa Cantos in knowing and masterly accounts of piano music from one of her country’s greatest composers.

Des Hutchinson

 



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