Much in the spirit of the Iturbi duo, Xiayin Wang brings colossal technique and ardent affection to the music of Enrique Granados.

GRANADOS: Goyescas, Op. 11; Zapateado; Ochos Valses Poeticos; Allegro de Concierto, Op. 46 – Xiayin Wang, piano – Chandos CHAN 10995, 70:00 (2/2/18) ****:

Enrique Granados (1867-1918) felt a strong affinity with Madrid and its great artistic icon Francesco Goya (1746-1828), whose engravings and tapestries that embrace the eighteenth and early nineteenth century sensibilities of the national and Catalan idioms.  Prompted by the more erotic of the Goya corpus, Goyescas (1909-1912) in two books captures the imagined rendezvous and dalliance of the various majos and majas of the old quarter of Madrid. The recording (8-9 September 2017) projects fine luster, courtesy of Recording Engineer William Schwartz and his crew.

The florid writing for Granados’ piano contains “pieces of sweep and difficulty,” as he points out. The first piece, Los requiebros, utilizes a kind of jota as a pick-up line—almost a guitar strum in arpeggios—and its reception. Romantic in color, the piece develops a melody from one of the composer’s own Tonadillas. Castanet sonorities blend with triplet figures tempo changes that stop and start, eventually becoming rapturous.   Coloquio en la reja basks in Spanish harmony and colors, as an amorous majo courts a maja through a barred window. A Copla, or passionate love song, ensues. The fervent movement culminates in triple forte and later octaves for both hands, a fierce reference to the cante jondo, or deep song, of Andalusia. A constant rhythmic triplet characterizes El fandango de candil, a slow and rhythmic scene sung and danced in the Andalusian spirit. Almost obsessive, the piece assumes the majesty of a grand nocturne in the middle section, rife with erotic power. The fourth section of the suite has become self-determined: Quejas, o La maja y el ruisanor, the beautiful lady and the nightingale. The main tune comes from Valencia’s folk tradition, in which the melody undergoes a series of variations, a kind of perfumed improvisation, which has the nightingale answer in the form of a cadenza.

Book II opens with El amor y la muerte, inspired by a Goya engraving (a Capricho) of the same name.  A young man fatally wounded in a duel finds comfort with his maja in a piece that virtually telescopes the entire suite.  Love, pain, retrospection, and final tragedy compress into a sweet sorrow of eventual renunciation.  Ms. Wang infuses this massive work—as had Amparo Iturbi in her classic version for RCA—with a rich tapestry, volatile and dignified at once.  Epilogo: Serenata del espectro utilizes, as do Liszt and Rachmaninov, the Dies Irae of the Requiem Mass, here in the form of a waltz. The ghost (in staccato) here plucks the guitar strings prior to his departure.

The 1904 Zapateado (stomping dance) shares much of the energy we find in similar pieces by Sarasate. This is the last of a set of Seis piezas sobre cantos populares. In rushing 6/8 figures, the piece insists on the dancer’s feet in variation of the basic rhythm, having the right hand skip the first and fourth beat. The middle section is marked Scherzo provides another variation. The persuasive, affecting 8 Poetic Waltzes (c. 1894) share commonalities with Ravel, insofar as he, too, looked to Schubert’s Vienna as his waltz-model. The first of the set (Introduccion) is in duple time, followed by seven pieces in slow, triple time. Only the last, with its own charm, appears in 6/8 Presto, finally returning to the dominant ¾ time to complete the survey.

The final work in Wang’s recital, Allegro de Concierto (1903-04) in C-sharp Major, won a first prize from the Madrid Conservatory for its brilliant style. Murderous sixteenths plow through the 15 pages of this ambitious etude, with a main theme of a slower tempo that becomes virtually swamped by the heroics of the flow. Rife with arpeggios, the work achieves a kind of transcendence of tone and natural keyboard luminosity, its Andante middle section’s enjoying a ff climax. The piece ends, fervently, Allegro spiritoso, a value not lost on our enthusiastic interpreter.

—Gary Lemco