Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A strong Spanish programme by a much-loved pianist

From Septembe 29, 2010:


Alicia de Larrocha, who died in September 2009, was always closely identified with the music of the great Spanish composers: Albeniz, Granados, & Manuel de Falla. This new disc on Newton brings back, in a splendid package, a Decca disc of important piano works by de Falla which were originally recorded at Kingsway Hall in June of 1973.

The centre-piece of the programme is the Fantasia Baetica of 1919. This amazing work of modernism was written for Arthur Rubinstein, just like another 20th century masterpiece, the Rudepoema of Villa-Lobos. As with the Rudepoema, Rubinstein didn't keep this difficult work in his repertoire long, though of course we owe him so much for having commmissioned such great pieces in the first place. The Fantasia shows many influences: Spanish flamenco; the French piano music Falla came across in Paris, most notably Debussy; and the harpsichord music of the baroque period, especially Scarlatti. Guitar plucking and strumming, and chords based on guitar tuning, are found throughout. This is a work that rewards multiple listening. Good luck to the pianist who attempts to master it!

The disc also includes some more accessible music: de Falla's first important piano work, the Cuarto piezas espanolas; and the lively piano versions of two important ballets. The CD provides nearly an hour of entertainment and enlightenment, played by a most distinguished artist, close to the peak of her powers.

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