Notes and Editorial Reviews
Deux Préludes d’hiver. Danse du clown.
Sonatas: in D; in g.
Fugue sur une “falseta”
Chant à Turina. De Nuit dans l’Albaicin. Danse Rustique. La Nuit tombe et l’enfant dort. Chansonettes
Deux mouvements thématiques, “guitareries”
Chanson et Danse sur trois notes. Trois pieces brèves
class="ARIAL12bi">Fantaisie thématique. Trois mouvements
for piano or organ.
Idylle, nocturne. Suggestions
Alberto Portugheis (pn)
ANIMA 130300001 (2 CDs: 110:39)
Once again, I encounter another “woman composer,” as the male population always like to refer to them (making sure that we understand that the gender difference indicates a generally inferior quality of musicianship) who has fallen through the cracks of time. Elena Romero (1908–1996), daughter of an upper-class Spanish family who sympathized with the average working people but did not support or approve of the Franco dictatorship, had her burgeoning career splintered due to the Civil War of the 1930s and the ensuing Fascist state. She also had serious bouts of tuberculosis at the age of 36, which forced her to move from Barcelona back to Madrid, her hometown, where she began a particularly fruitful period working with Joaquin Turina. Inspired by Ataúlfo Argenta, she also became active as a conductor, a position exceptionally rare for any Spanish woman of any class. All her music remains unpublished.
This collection of her piano music, ranging from the lightweight to the serious, discloses a unique and discursive musical mind. Mozartian counterpoint, native Spanish rhythms, and piquant moments of bitonalism constantly rub shoulders in her works. What is more, pianist Portugheis is a sensitive and imaginative interpreter who seems surprisingly committed to making Romero’s music sound as enjoyable as it is excellent. His bio in the booklet reflects the extremely wide repertoire he performs, thus indicating that his embracing of Romero’s music is just another step in his voracious musical appetite. He is also the founder and vice-chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe.
The problem as I hear it is that, at least in her piano music, Romero often geared her expression towards the lighter side. Among the treasures in this collection are the opening Prelude, “Et la pluie tombe monotone,” with its shifting colors; the lively
Danse du clown
; her adaptation of a flamenco “falseta” from the guitar to the piano; the
La Nuit tombe et l’enfent dort
; and the nicely impressionistic
Trois pies brèves pour piano.
But to be honest, I was very disappointed by her full-length Sonata in G Minor (which very quickly slips into major in the first movement, then back again) because to my ears it never really develops, but seems more like a string of dances played on the piano. Moreover, many of the works heard here would fall into the category of nice encore pieces, not something meaty to make up a concert program. For me, the absolute highlights of the set are the substantial
Trois mouvements pour piano ou orgue,
and especially the shockingly powerful
, which display a much more imposing aspect of Romero’s writing, with an ambiguous tonal base and rich chromatics. These works, to me, indicated a great and not just a populist composer.
Again, this has nothing to do with the presentation. Portugheis, as I say, is a first-rate pianist, thus I cannot place any blame on him for lack of commitment or musical interest. Also, since I haven’t heard any of her non-piano works, I can’t say whether or not some of them are better music; but the music presented here is nice, occasionally fascinating but more often than not merely presenting, to my ears, dance music on the piano. Three stars.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Deux Préludes d’hiver by Elena Romero
Alberto Portugheis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Chansonnettes by Elena Romero
Alberto Portugheis (Piano)
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