Naxos 8.570956

Frederic Mompou
Piano Music • 5

Jordi Masó
(piano), Marc Oliu (violin), Joan-Antoni Pich (cello), Marisa Ruiz Magaldi (piano)

Don Perlimplín (composed with Xavier Montsalvatge, 1955); Ballet (1949); Glossa sobre ‘Au clair de lune’ (1946); Romança (1944); Moderato expresivo (1946); Fantasia sobre ‘Au claire de lune’ (1946); Altitud for violin and piano (1928); El pont for cello and piano (1976); 3 Comptines for piano four hands (1978)

[rec. Auditorio de Jafre, Girona, 18-19 July 2008]

Naxos 8.570956 [TT=73:18]

Around the millennium Jordi Masó released his 4-CD Mompou solo set. It may lack the touch of mystic charm that made the composer’s own recordings classics, but Masó’s set is the modern choice, cleanly imaginative as well as complete. Or very nearly so. Ten years on, he and Naxos have provided us with a gorgeous pendant in the shape of two substantial piano ballets, a handful of unpublished manuscript pieces, plus for good measure Mompou’s three chamber compositions – none of them previously recorded, at least in this form.

The 34 minute ballet score based on Lorca’s Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín is the main meat. This curious poetic drama relates how an aging Granada nobleman marries a sexually unawakened village girl. In order to seduce her he invents the character of a lover for whom she falls. The tragic climax comes when the jealous husband “kills” the lover, and therefore himself, leaving Belisa alone and bereft.

Well I too have fallen for Don Perlimplín hook, line and sinker. Lorca’s surreal perversity inspired a limpid score, reminiscent of Mompou’s beloved Poulenc in its cool, contemplative passion, but defining very much its own world – Mompou Lite if you like, after such crystalline masterworks as Música Callada, but with direct theatrical impact and one searingly good big tune. Some of its success is due to Xavier Montsalvatge, who added a couple of spiky additional dances and the orchestration when Mompou ran out of time before the 1956 Barcelona premiere. The piano original was only published in 2007, but Masó makes a compelling case for preferring its fino spareness to the orchestral version (still available on a first-rate 2002 Trito CD with Gianandrea Noseda conducting the Joven Orquesta Nacional de España).

If the Satie-esque Ballet – a series of twelve miniatures, mostly under a minute in duration, written in 1949 for a bibliophile book – is not of comparable musical depth, it’s cut from the same fastidious cloth. The same can be said for the other short solo pieces, and the 4-hand Comptines. But the two piano-string duos round out our picture of a great Catalan composer: El pont in particular wears its heart surprisingly on its sleeve, and has an eloquent advocate in Joan-Antoni Pich.

This is more than a mere appendix to Masó’s excellent solo series. Don Perlimplín is a moving theatre work of gorgeous quality, and ensures that this Naxos CD is one to which I’ll be returning very often.

© Christopher Webber 2010

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27 April 2010