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The Piano Music Of Ernesto Halffter / Jones

Halffter / Jones / Farmer
Release Date: 02/09/2010 
Label:  Nimbus   Catalog #: 5849  
Composer:  Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



E. HALFFTER Espagnolade. Crepusculos. Marche Joyeuse . Piano Sonata. Sonatina: Three Dances. Gruss. Llanto por Ricardo Viñes. Serenata a Dulcinea. Pregón Cuba. Habañera. Prelude and Dance. Noctorno otoñal. Sonata, “Homenaje a Domenico Scatlatti.” Homenajes: a Rodolfo Halffter; a Federico Mompou; a Joaquin Turina; Piezas infantiles for two pianos 1 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Martin Jones, 1 Adrian Farmer (pn) NIMBUS NI 5849 (79:23)


For well over a decade, Welsh pianist Martin Jones has been recording the Spanish repertoire for the British Nimbus label, alongside much else. (Last year he embarked on a Czerny series.) Previous forays include music by Albéniz, Falla, and Turina, and excellent complete sets of Granados, Guastavino, and Mompou. Ernesto Halffter (1905–89) is now added to that representative list of names.


Halffter was influenced significantly by the sparsely textured late work of his friend and mentor Manuel de Falla. There is something of the astringency of Stravinsky, too, plus a lightness and underlying humor in such works as the four-hand suite Piezas infantiles that establishes a temperamental link to Les Six.


In Fanfare 31:3 I reviewed and recommended a comprehensive two-CD Naxos set of Halffter’s piano music played by Guillermo González. The latter’s set runs to two discs because he includes a transcription of the 35-minute ballet Sonatina , whereas Jones plays only three short excerpts. Otherwise, Jones covers everything the composer wrote specifically for the instrument. So how do the two recordings compare?


On timings alone, Jones is almost invariably quicker, sometimes considerably so. The opening Espagnolade of 1937 is a case in point: One of the composer’s most extrovert pieces, it is tossed off with gusto by Jones in 4:39 as opposed to the earthy and jovial González at 5:57. Yet Jones does not rush through this program willy-nilly; he has a sure sense of when to treat a dance rhythm with playful rubato (as in the Habanera and the dances from Sonatina ). He is thoughtful in the charming Homenajes ; in these pieces the timings between the two recordings are much closer. In the lovely homage to Mompou, Jones is the more inwardly reflective of the two.


The Nimbus disc was recorded at the label’s regular venue at Wyastone. The piano sound is recessed and reverberation is present (although not as much as in many early Nimbus releases). Nevertheless, Jones’s digital dexterity ensures clarity and sparkling brilliance when required. By comparison, González is recorded closely in the Naxos house style, which emphasizes his warmer but heavier touch.


My preference—not by much—is for Jones, who is such an underrated pianist. (I have a soft spot for his very first LP releases of Szymanowski and Busoni.) You get more music for virtually the same outlay from González, but the full ballet Sonatina works best in its orchestral garb. You can’t really go wrong with either disc, so do try to sample Halffter’s piano music if you do not know it.


On another matter: In my recent review of Rodolfo Halffter’s piano music ( Fanfare 32:6) I wondered why Rodolfo left Spain following the Spanish Civil War to move to South America, while Ernesto stayed home. Turns out I was misinformed; both brothers emigrated, in Ernesto’s case to Portugal.


FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1. L'Espagnolade by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; Spain 
2. Trozos Liricos (3), Crepusculos by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
3. March joyeuse by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
4. Piezas infantiles by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
5. Sonata for Piano by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1932; Spain 
6. Sonatina Ballet: Three Dances by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
7. Gruss by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; Spain 
8. Llanto por Ricardo Viñes by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; Spain 
9. Serenata a Dulcinea by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Spain 
10. Pregón by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; Spain 
11. Habañera for Piano by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; Spain 
12. Preludio y danza by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; Spain 
13. Nocturno otoñal "Recordando a Chopin" by Ernesto Halffter
Performer:  Martin Jones (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; Spain 

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