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Espla: Music for Piano / Martin Jones

Espla / Jones,Martin
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Nimbus   Catalog #: 5889   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 27 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ESPLÁ Romanza antigua. Impressiones musicales, op. 2. Scherzo, op. 5. Crepúsculum, op. 15. Suite de pequeñas piezas. Levante, Melodias y temas de danza. La pájara pinta, Piezas Infantiles, op. 25. Tres movimientos para piano. Cantos de antaño. La Sierra, Suite folklórica. Líricas Españolas I (Bocetos levantinos), Read more II (Tonadas Antiguas), IV, V (Suite característica). Sonata Española, op. 53 Martin Jones (pn) NIMBUS 5889/90 (2 CDs: 147:16)

Óscar Esplá (1889–1976) was born in Alicante, Spain, a part of the same generation of Spanish composers which included both Joaquin Turina, born in the early 1880s, and Federico Mompou, born in the early part of the following decade. His formative years are somewhat a mystery. What is known is that he studied engineering, philosophy, and literature at the University of Barcelona, before switching to music, following the advice of the poet Gabriel Miró. He later left Spain to study counterpoint with Max Reger in Germany, and (according to some sources) may have also studied composition with Camille Saint-Saëns in Paris. By 1911 he was a fully-fledged composer, having that year won the International Music Society Prize for his orchestral Suite levantina ; it was described by the jury, which included Richard Strauss, as “one of the greatest and definitive works to be written since César Franck.” But it was the piano which was to prove the definitive testing and maturing ground for Esplá: he was by all accounts an outstanding pianist himself, premiering many of his own works and serving on international juries (most famously on that of the very first Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels).

His piano music is wide ranging, incorporating aspects from all of the numerous sources which influenced him from early on. Late 19th-century German music, French Impressionism, and Spanish folk music, along with his interest in literature and poetry, all shed light on different phases of his oeuvre . His early output—everything up until 1910 or so—is all mild-mannered in effect. One can hear the composer searching for his own distinct way of constructing music. When listening to certain movements, such as “At Home,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” or “Long Ago” from his early op. 2, one hears the influence of Schumann, along with more French-inspired harmonies and figurations at certain moments; the Spanish rhythms, the musical flair has not yet entered into the picture. The later Suite of 1913 continues his exploration of various influences, always mixing the old (Bach, Scarlatti, and Offenbach in three of the five pieces) with the new—the last work sounds like something that Poulenc might have written. The rest of his output featured here consists of groups of shorter pieces (excluding the three-movement Sonata Española ). Already in the next group— Levante, Melodias y temas de danzas —one can hear the composer’s Spanish and the Modernistic tendencies reaching maturity. The short sixth number is both traditional sounding with its simple accompaniment, and jarringly modern in its repetitive yet awkwardly jagged melodic formulas. The music of the 1930s remains fairly conservative harmonically, but the language itself becomes more personal—there is the feeling that not one mood, one sentiment, one note even is false. Everything is fluid in effect, working all towards creating that perfect musical moment. From the mesmerizing, almost wandering effect of the Aire andaluz to the simple, yet heart-wrenching Canción de cuna , from the quirky dance-like rhythms of the Ronda serrana to the cheery playfulness of the Sonatina playera, each short piece carefully captures the intended mood to perfection. The largest work on the recital, the aforementioned Sonata Española , op. 53, was written to commemorate the centenary of Chopin’s death—its second movement is even entitled Mazurca sopra un tema popular . It is a serious work from its start, still highly melodic in nature, yet written in a language that seems far from the Spanish-tinged one of his previous works.

Throughout the recital Martin Jones proves to be a very fine advocate of this music. There is a bit of that Spanish flair missing in the more rhythmic numbers, a bit of that carefree spirit which a pianist like Alicia de Larrocha would bring to this repertoire, and in certain passages he sounds just a bit forced. But where Jones truly shines is in the more lyrically inspired numbers. Here his touch is always sensitive, his playing filled with color. The Nimbus sound is a bit murky, but that suits this music well for most of the recital. If one likes their Spanish repertoire of Albéniz, Granados, Turina, Falla, and the like, then Esplá should provide one with further listening pleasures.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Romanza Antigua by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 3 Minutes 22 Secs. 
2.
Impresiones musicales, for piano, Op. 2 by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1905-1909 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 12 Minutes 11 Secs. 
3.
Scherzo, for piano, Op. 5 by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1909 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 6 Minutes 14 Secs. 
4.
Crepusculum by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 8 Minutes 23 Secs. 
5.
Suite de pequeñas piezas, for piano by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1913 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 8 Minutes 13 Secs. 
6.
Levante by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 15 Minutes 48 Secs. 
7.
La pájara pinta, for piano (from "Piezas Infantiles") by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1916-1920 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 8 Minutes 26 Secs. 
8.
Movimientos (3) for Piano by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 11 Minutes 51 Secs. 
9.
Chants d'antan by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 6 Minutes 3 Secs. 
10.
Lírica Española No. 1, for piano ("Bocetos levantinos") by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 11 Minutes 43 Secs. 
11.
Lírica Española No. 2, for piano ("Tonadas antiguas") by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 4 Minutes 25 Secs. 
12.
Lírica Española No. 4, for piano by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 6 Minutes 37 Secs. 
13.
Lírica Española No. 5, for piano ("Suite característica") by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 12 Minutes 34 Secs. 
14.
Sonata Española for Piano by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 15 Minutes 53 Secs. 
15.
La Sierra, suite on folksong tunes for piano by Oscar Esplá
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1930-1936 
Venue:  Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK 
Length: 9 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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