FALLA: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; Cuatro piezas espanolas; Fantasia baetica; Homenaje; Pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas; Cancion; Nocturno; Mazurka; Serenata andaluza – Javier Perianes, piano/ BBC Sym. Orch./ Joseph Pons – Harmonia mundi 902099, 79:37 *****:
Falla’s contact with Rusinol’s book Gardens of Spain (1903), a volume of prints by the Catalan painter, unleashed his imagination which then turned to books and poems about Granada and Alhambra. Though the piece was originally intended as a series of nocturnes, Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes convinced him to convert it into a work for piano and orchestra. Though the piece is not remotely close to a genuine piano concerto—more a collection of “symphonic impressions” as the composer called it, with a brilliant and impressionistic piano obbligato—it remains in the repertory as a work that more often than not features big name pianists in the role at concerts around the world.
I have not heard such a sizzling and scintillating performance of this piece since Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich recorded it on Erato some years back. Yes, I know the Rubinstein, and am aware of his importance to Falla in general, but even he failed to equal the Argerich. Both of them fall a little short of this wonderfully recorded release, played to hothouse perfection by Javier Perianes, a pianist new to me, but evidently well received in the pages of Audiophile Audition. Perianes has an elegant touch, beautifully controlled articulation, and an innate sense of color and harmonic layering that is second to none.
The other music on this disc, all for solo piano and spanning a forty year period, brings to light Falla’s incredible sense of imitation—he was able to absorb all sorts of influences, Chopin, Schumann, Satie, Ravel, Debussy—and yet recreate those affinities into music that was distinctly his own. So his Mazurka is like Chopin but much darker and more mysterious; the Fantasia formidably Spanish yet in the spirit of Schumann. Each one is a completely unique universe that doesn’t form a consistent link to the other pieces, but yet show us a different facet of Falla’s art. This is music well worth exploring if you don’t know it, and Perianes is a master. Usual high Harmonia mundi sound and production values.
The unifying purpose of Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn…