FREDERIC MOMPOU: Paisatges = Preludis; Paisatges; Souvenirs de l’Exposition; Variacions sobre un tema de Chopin; Canco de bressol – Alfred Pla, piano – La Ma de Guido LMG2109, 74:27 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Mompou best serves us today in short snatches; though his Musica Callada (Silent Music) is what he is known for, that piece takes a bit of stamina to get through, and I always find him most effective as “filler” interspersed in recitals. Perhaps, nay, no doubt this is unfair; but that’s the way I hear him and very little in terms of complete surveys do a lot to brighten my ears.
But when I hear differing works presented one at a time they can be quite effective. Mompou was fated to spend most of his life in a back and forth living arrangement with Barcelona and Paris. In 1936 it was back to Paris where there was a Universal Exposition presented, and publisher Max Eschig commissioned works from foreign composers living there. The result was Souvenirs de l’Exposition, a piece which in very concise and brief means samples aspect of the Exposition. Paisatges (Landscape) is a work done in two “books” (if they can be called that, as the entire work is only 12 minutes), the first which was composed in 1942 consisting of the first two pieces, and the third in 1960 of the last. They are picturesque and rather disparate in style, which is an important point in some of his work. Often what we have today in the published accounts was in fact composed over a rather lengthy period of time, and you can detect these differences if you listen carefully. The same holds true of the Preludes, the first six started in 1927 while the remaining six begun in 1941 and finished within five years, each a miniature tone poem.
The Chopin Variations is perhaps the best and most fascinating work here. What started out as a piece for cello and piano quickly morphed into a ballet potential, only to end up as a set of piano variations on Chopin’s shortest piece, the Prelude in A Major, taking the piece through a series of immersive discourses into the complex world of Chopin, rhythmically, melodically, and even, to an extent, harmonically.
Alfred Pla is a fine exponent of this music, and plays with fine tone and admirable technical facility. Mompou is not for everyone, and he does take some patience. Those in possession of that virtue will find much to savor.
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