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

Mysticism and Modernism

From June 1, 2011:


Adventurous programmes and amazing technique are the hallmarks of Jenny Lin's recordings over the past decade. I really sat up and took notice when Hannsler Classics released her Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues in 2009. This was a fresh take on some of my favourite music; an outstanding disc with depth as well as fireworks.

So I was really pleased to see her new disc of Federico Mompou's Musica Callada - Silent Music - an important work from the 1960s. This music is without fireworks of any kind, but it requires a skilled pianist to put across this deceptively simple music. The third piece of the first book, "Placide" is an excellent example. It is indeed placid, and simple, almost child-like. It reminds one of some of Schumann's Kinderszenen, or the folk-like tunes of Villa-Lobos's Guia Pratico. It has a nostalgic sadness, and Lin plays it with restraint, almost reverence.

Musica Callada is Mompou's late masterpiece, written under the twin influences of mysticism and modernism. His literary inspiration was the 16th century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross, who provides Mompou's title. But the composer also makes reference to the French Symbolist poet Paul Valery, when he quotes the poem Le pas at the top of the score to the second piece in Book I, Lent.

Mompou's musical influences are Spanish and and French modernists. The great Catalan composers Albeniz and Granados share Mompou's interest in Ravel and Debussy, but I wonder if all three are channeling their own regional folk music as well. Mompou is especially interested in Erik Satie, though the pieces on this disc partake only of Satie's understatement and not his humour. This music is spare, but hardly light!

This disc is the first I've seen from the brand new Steinway & Sons label. The sound is lifelike, open, and resonant. Guess what kind of piano Lin is playing?

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