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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available: Mirian Conti's brand-new disc featuring the music of Spanish composer Ernesto Halffter.
The last newly recorded LP I ever bought was a piano recital, “Gypsy Dances”—a purchase prompted by a
review as I recall—featuring Mirian Conti playing dance suites by Turina and others. CDs took over my life and I haven’t listened to that record in years; even so, I believe I could have guessed the identity of the
artist on this new disc after hearing just a few bars of the opening “Aragonesa.” Conti’s bright, percussive touch and playful but never overdone rubato are still the defining features of her pianism. It’s good to have her back in repertoire she understands so thoroughly.
Her recital is bookended by two Spanish war-horses—although I shouldn’t use that term; it has connotations of exhaustion and impending retirement, whereas this music is ever fresh and ready for action. The Falla pieces certainly get action from Conti: she launches into the suite with brio and a real sense of the curtain being raised. When she gets to the quiet moments, as in the opening of the third piece, “Montañesa,” she pares back her tone but always emphasizes clarity of line: this is not the inward-looking languor of Michel Block, nor the warm, soft-edged caress of Uta Weyland (reviewed elsewhere).
To digress for a moment: the pianist is not solely responsible for the sound. It also depends on what type of piano is being played. Glenn Gould taught us that! I suspect Uta Weyland plays a full size Steinway, just as I suspect Mirian Conti does not; there is simply not enough bass resonance. The bass has presence, which is not the same thing. However, I remain in the dark on this matter since not one of the above CDs mentions it. I went to Conti’s 1987 LP to check her earlier piano preference, only to discover the release had no cover notes whatsoever.
The present disc concludes with that other war-horse, Turina’s three
. I actually prefer these pieces in their orchestral garb, which Conti’s tone color deftly conjures up. The final moments of the third dance, “Orgia,” are uncharacteristically clangy, but undeniably exciting. In concert, they’d bring the house down. In between, we have Ernesto Halffter’s gentle Habanera, a not-so-distant cousin to Ravel’s piece of the same name and to Albeniz’s Tango in D (especially in the prettified arrangement by Godowksy). Albeniz makes an appearance with the fourth movement of his late
Cantos de Espana
, played with appropriate poise. Granados’s waltz suite is an early work, dating from his 20th year. Pleasant though it is, the music is slight compared to his later piano masterpieces and is nowhere near as individual a take on the waltz as Ravel’s
Valses nobles et sentimentales
. Conti sensibly doesn’t try to find more in the Granados than is there; she keeps it sweet and simple.
To my mind, the heart of this program lies in the music of Rodrigo and Surinach.
A l’ombre de Torre Bermeja
(“In the Shadow of the Bermeja Tower”) was Rodrigo’s short paraphrase on a piece by Albeniz and was written in memory of the pianist Ricardo Viñes (1875–1945). Without quoting Albeniz, Rodrigo evokes the older composer’s style in rapid staccato figuration, imitating the Spanish guitar. A contrasting middle section in melancholy mood expresses a feeling of loss. Carlos Surinach’s nine-minute suite was written in New York in 1951; in her booklet note, Conti remarks on how much her approach to the work was enhanced while performing it in collaboration with the flamenco dancer Pilar Rioja. A rare example of his piano music on disc, the work exhibits Surinach’s customary synthesis of sculptural strength and rhythmic energy. It is ideally served by Conti’s particular talents. Indeed, she does all the composers proud in this varied, joyous recital.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Valses poeticos by Enrique Granados
Mirian Conti (Piano)
Written: 1887; Spain
Habañera for Piano by Ernesto Halffter
Mirian Conti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1945; Spain
Featured Sound Samples
Valses Poéticos (Granados)
Cantos de España (Albéniz): No 4 "Córdoba"
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Espana Fantastica August 29, 2014
By W. Lafe (Pittsburgh, PA) See All My Reviews
"This is a terrific CD. Some well-known pieces, some not so well-known. It's a worthy follow up to a much older, CD of Albeniz works by Alicia de Larrocha."