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Spanish Classics - The Catalan Piano Album


Release Date: 10/30/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570457   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Federico MompouRicardo ViñesJosep María RueraXavier Montsalvatge,   ... 
Performer:  Jordi Masó
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A gem, full of unusual and delightful music, played by a wonderful pianist.

I really like this CD. I confess that I did not know what to expect, as I am not familiar with the wider field of Catalan composers beyond Albéniz and Granados. Of the composers included in this recording, however, I only had a vague acquaintance with the names of Mompou and Montsalvatge. The CD was a wonderful surprise.

I’ll begin with the pianist, Jordi Masó. He sounds relaxed and plays with a light touch, but he also has the range of depth to express drama and emotion, without straining or reaching beyond the music. His pacing always seems appropriate to the music, never indulging in idiosyncrasies or extremes. A
Read more Catalan himself, he studied in Barcelona as well as in the Royal Academy of Music in London, earning the prestigious DipRAM. Masó arranged some pieces for piano, wrote the very informative liner notes, and it seems to me that he also made the selection of the music.

In his notes he writes that the first decades of the twentieth century was a particularly fertile and stimulating period for Catalan piano music, with enormous stylistic diversity, with links to the Romantic tradition of Chopin, Schumann and Liszt, the use of nationalistic and folk themes, a growing admiration for Wagner, an affinity with the burgeoning and distinctive French music primarily of Debussy and Ravel, and I would add an opening up to the musical language of neo-classicism as well. At first I was listening for these influences, but soon I realized that I was in a sound world that eschewed preconceptions and insisted on being heard on its own merits.

That sound-world is immediately established by the dreamy and melodic initial piece, Mompou’s Cançó I Dansa No.13. Vaguely impressionistic, it presents what appears to be a nostalgic reminiscence, and then breaks into, as the name implies, a slightly ironic little dance. Along the same vein is Viñes’s En Verlaine Mineur. Harmonic, yet slightly dissonant, there’s a tenuously comfortable melody that seems to hesitate it’s way through the piece.

A complete change of pace, Ruera’s Tocs de Festa, Festival Fanfares, sounds like part neo-classical ballet and part march. Insistent rhythms are broken up by persistent forward motion in a very entertaining and rollicking piece.

No sooner have we gotten into the festive spirit than we languidly fall back into Xavier Montsalvatge’s Divertimento No.2. A dreamy warm afternoon Habanera dance piece which starts quite simply and melodic, becomes whimsically discordant, and then finds its way back to the simplicity of its beginning, but with a sadder tone. Beautiful. The next piece is a Mazurka of Granados. Sad and nostalgic in its minor key, at first it’s hard to identify its origins, but then it declares its Iberian blood in its flourishes, with a persistent closing phrase that seems to silence all further speculation, especially when in its last apparition it ends in a satisfying major chord.

From the tropical ease of the Habanera and the nostalgic repose of the Mazurka, we jump into a playful and humorous, almost cartoon-like, world with Joaquim Nin-Culmell’s 3 Tonadas. I kept imagining children’s animated cartoons, especially in the first “tonada”, more because of the attitude than the music itself. It is not surprising that Nin-Clmell studied with Alfred Cortot and Paul Dukas! The second tune starts off a lot like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “The Tears of a Clown”, which seems appropriate — or ironic, as this is a very funny little piece, especially the hilarious ending. Apparently he wrote 48 “tonadas”, and it would be interesting to hear them all, even if it may be too much of a good thing.

Again there is a change of mood when we hear Joan Massià’s El Gorg Negre, The Black Lake. Late Romantic and pictorial, this is a beautiful salon piece. We are again thrown into a whimsical world by the Polka De L’Equilibrista, the tightrope walker. The piece is unremarkable but certainly fun enough. Then comes Albéniz’s very Spanish barcarolle, Mallorca. In Masós hands this is an icon of elegance and restraint. And speaking of elegance, while still in the very Spanish music world created by Albéniz, Joaquim Malats’s Serenata Española is beautifully played and the rhythmic and melodic nuances seem to float off the keyboard. Malats was a popular virtuoso, and Albéniz actually wrote his popular suite Iberia specifically for him. One can sense the connection between these two artists, especially hearing these two pieces in sequence. Some listeners will be familiar with this serenade in its guitar version.

Ricard Lamote De Grignon’s El Convent dels Peixos, The Convent of the Fish, is a dreamy, somewhat Satie-like poem, a clear little gem. In the same vein is Ricardo Viñes’s Menuet Spectral, although it is not a miniature and has a more sophisticated form and development. Joan Massiá’s Scherzo is a true scherzo, changeable and humorous. Serra’s Cançó De Bressol, which means “Lullaby”, is sunny and reflective.

Morera’s Dansa No. 1 breaks the sleepy mood with an inventive and rhythmic composition, full of many rich and gorgeous sounds. Roberto Gerhart’s 2 Apunts, which can be translated as notes or sketches, are more firmly planted in a 20th century soundscape. They are ethereal and searching and as modern as they sound they are never dissonant. Then follows a world premiere recording of a barcarolle by Agustí Grau, Tamarit. It starts off simply but goes through many ebbs and flows, even quoting Mozarabic melodies in its central section, before gently coming ashore.

Xavier Gols’s Ametllers Florits, Al Lluny, Blossoming Almond Trees in the Distance, is another piece that seems to float, perhaps alluding to the optical illusion of distance, painting a decidedly impressionistic landscape.

The “Sardana” is a circle dance typical of Catalunya. The penultimate selection on this CD is a sardana composed by Joaquim Zamacóis. In his hands it becomes variations on a theme, going through many colors and lightings of the basic tune.

The CD began with Frederic Mompou, and it ends with his Preludi No.12. This is a good piece with which to leave the listener, as it characterizes much of what makes this a great CD. It combines melodic with impressionistic, earthy with ethereal, and has a dreamy quality shared by many other pieces, yet sounds unique and secure in its personal voice. Masó brings full circle what he started with Cançó I Dansa No.13, which leaves one sated and satisfied.

-- Miguel Muelle, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Prelude for Piano no 12 by Federico Mompou
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; Spain 
2.
Cançons i dansas (14): no 13, El cant dels ocells/El bon caçador by Federico Mompou
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972; Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
3.
En Verlaine mineur by Ricardo Viñes
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
4.
Tocs de festa by Josep María Ruera
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
5.
Divertimentos (3) for Piano: no 2, Habanera by Xavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
6.
Escenas (6) románticas for Piano: no 1, Mazurka by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
7.
Tonadas (48) for Piano: Ratolinesa by Joaquín Nin-Culmell
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956-1961 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 0 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
8.
Tonadas (48) for Piano: Ball de Sant Ferriol i bolangera by Joaquín Nin-Culmell
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956-1961 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 1 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
9.
Tonadas (48) for Piano: Ball pla i l'esquerrana by Joaquín Nin-Culmell
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956-1961 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 1 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
10.
El parc d'atraccions: no 4, Polca de l'equilibrista by M Blancafort de Rosselló
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 1 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó.
Composition written: 1920 - 1924. 
11.
Barcarola for Piano, Op. 202 "Mallorca" by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1891; London, England 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 5 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
12.
Serenata española for Piano in F major by Joaquin Malats
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
13.
El convent dels peixos by Ricardo Lamote
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
14.
Menuet spectral by Ricardo Viñes
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
15.
Cançó de bressol by Joaquim Serra
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
16.
Dance no 1 by Enrique Morera
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
17.
Sketches (2) by Roberto Gerhard
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
18.
Tamarit by Agustí Grau
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 7 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
19.
Ametllers florits, al lluny by Xavier Gols
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
20.
Sardana by Joaquín Zamacóis
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 8 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Jordi Masó. 
21.
Notes d'estiu (3): no 1, El gorg negre by Joan Massià
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 25 Secs. 
22.
Notes d'estiu (3): no 3, Scherzo by Joan Massià
Performer:  Jordi Masó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Spain 
Date of Recording: 07/2006 
Venue:  Teatre Ponent, Granollers, Spain 
Length: 6 Minutes 54 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

4 hommages (Viñes): No 2: Menuet spectral
Dance no 1 (Morera)

Sound Samples

Canco i dansa No. 13 (Song and Dance No. 13) (arr. J. Maso for piano)
4 hommages: No. 1. En Verlaine mineur
Tocs de festa (Festival Fanfares)
3 Divertimentos: Divertimento No. 2
Escenas romanticas: No. 1. Mazurka
Tonadas, Vol. 4: No. 2. Ratolinesa (Catalonian polka)
Tonadas, Vol. 4: No. 4. Ball de Sant Farriol i bolangera (Catalonian dance)
Tonadas, Vol. 4: No. 6. Ball pla i l'esquerrana (Country dance)
Notes d'estiu: No. 1. El gorg negre (The Black Pond)
El parc d'atraccions (Fun Fair): IV. Polka de l'equilibrista (Tightrope-walker's Polka)
Mallorca, barcarolle, Op. 202
Serenata espanola (Spanish Serenade)
Imatges: El convent dels peixos (The Fish Convent)
4 hommages: No. 2. Menuet spectral
Notes d'estiu: No. 3. Scherzo
Tres Peces Breus: No. 1. Canco de bressol (Lullaby)
Dance No. 1
2 apunts (2 Sketches): No. 1. -
2 apunts (2 Sketches): No. 2. -
Tamarit, barcarola
De les terres altes: I. Ametllers florits, al lluny (Blossoming almond trees, in the distance)
Aguafuertes: III. Sardana
12 Preludes: Prelude No. 12

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