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Nin-Culmell: Concierto para piano; Montsalvatge

Release Date: 12/05/2006 
Label:  Columna Musica   Catalog #: 150   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Joaquín Nin-CulmellXavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Daniel Blanch
Conductor:  Enrique Pérez Mesa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MONTSALVATGE Concerto breve. 1 Alborada en Aurinx. NIN-CULMELL Piano Concerto 1 Daniel Blanch (pn); Enrique Pérez Mesa, cond; 1 Cuban NSO 1 COLUMNA MÚSICA150 (48:09)

Here is a delightful disc of 20th-century Spanish piano concertos, rounded out with a solo Read more piano work by Montsalvatge. The timing remains skimpy: could these forces not have unearthed another rarity, or given us an up-to-date recording of Guridi’s Homenaje a Walt Disney (for example)? That is my only gripe with this issue: with music-making on this level, you want more.

Montsalvatge’s Concerto breve for piano and orchestra is anything but brief. It is a large scale, virtuosic work, premiered by Alicia de Larrocha in 1953. The piano part displays many of the pianistic fingerprints (as it were) of the Spanish school: rapid repeated notes, scale-derived themes doubled by both hands, modal harmonies, and so on, accompanied by an orchestra big on brass and percussion. In concert I imagine it would be a knockout, and young Spanish pianist Daniel Blanch plays it here for all it’s worth, both in the exciting sections of the outer movements, and the dreamy and tender moments of the central movement, marked dolce . The Cuban orchestra is with him all the way, the slightly raw timbre of the trumpets sounding an authentic touch.

The latter are even more predominant in the concerto by Joaquin Nin-Culmell (1908–2004). This snappy, three-movement work from 1946 is in a neo-Classical vein, out of Stravinsky and late Falla. The final movement in particular contains several fanfare-like figures recalling Falla’s ballets. Solo piano begins the Andante movement, playing a simple theme over a 3/4 accompaniment: an indication that Nin-Culmell knew his Ravel. Nevertheless, this music does have a flavor of its own, primarily due to the composer’s use of Catalan melodies. (The third movement is entitled “Vivo sobre un tema popular infantil.”) Nin-Culmell and Montsalvatge shared a Catalan heritage, and that melodic influence may be heard also in the short piano encore, Alborada en Aurinx.

There appears to be no recorded competition for Nin-Culmell’s concerto, but the Montsalvatge is another matter. Larrocha’s performance with the Royal PO under Frühbeck de Burgos, recorded for Decca in 1977, has reappeared on a cheap (depending on which hemisphere you live in) Eloquence CD, where it is coupled with Surinach’s take-no-prisoners piano concerto and shorter concertante works by Albéniz and Turina. Larrocha’s is a virtuoso turn; of course, the concerto was written for her. The sound on the older performance is excitingly brash, if just a bit synthetic compared to the 2005 sonics of the new CD. When it comes to a choice, I would probably recommend Larrocha—her Albéniz Rapsodia española is ravishing—but then you would miss out on the Nin-Culmell concerto, which is an enjoyable work too. Decisions!

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in C major by Joaquín Nin-Culmell
Performer:  Daniel Blanch (Piano)
Conductor:  Enrique Pérez Mesa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
Concierto breve by Xavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Daniel Blanch (Piano)
Conductor:  Enrique Pérez Mesa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; Spain 
Alborada en Aurinx by Xavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Daniel Blanch (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999 

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