ISAAC ALBENIZ: Iberia, Books 1 & 2 – Evocation; El Puerto; Fete-Dieu a Seville, Rondena, Almeria, Triana – Yoram Ish-Hurwitz, piano – Turtle Records multichannel SACD TR75529, [Distr. by Allegro] *****:
Albeniz composed his big piano suite Iberia between 1905 and 1909, and it comprises four books consisting of three pieces in each. This recording is of the first two books, totaling six selections. Albeniz combined his romantic and classic qualities in this highly original suite which blends Parisian impressionism in the style of Debussy and Ravel with Andalusian flamenco and other Iberian folk influences. Both Debussy and Messiaen highly admired the work. Messiaen called it “the wonder for the piano…among the more brilliant pieces for the king of instruments.”
In Evocacion we hear Albeniz reminiscences of his native country, using elements of the Spanish fandango and jota song forms. The complex Fete-dieu a Seville describes the Corpus Christi Day procession in which the religious parade moves thru the streets accompanied by marching bands. It’s the most difficult piece in the suite – sometimes the piano score requires as many as four staves in long sections. The processional march becomes overwhelmed by a mournful saeta out of Andalusian flamenco. The march and saeta alternate and the piece ends with the evocation of flamenco guitars and distant church bells. The last of the six pieces, Triana, is named after the gypsy quarter of Seville and is a spectacular wind-up to the selections.
There are several versions of the first or all four books of Iberia, as well some fine performances of those which have received orchestral transcriptions. My favorite piano version is probably Alicia De Larrocha’s on RCA, but the rich and wide range piano sonics Turtle’s engineers give Dutch-based Israeli pianist Ish-Hurwitz make his virtuoso interpretations my current favorites. The multi-fold album is graced with some lovely B&W photos of Andalusian scenes.
– John Sunier