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CLASSICAL  August 2005

CLASSICAL August 2005

Subject:

Granados Piano Music, Volume 8

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 17 Aug 2005 03:05:17 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

   Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
        Piano Music, Volume 8

Carezza-Vals (Caress Waltz), DLR VII:3 [6:32]
Dolora, DLR III:7 [2:15] *
Clotilde, DLR III:3 [2:15] *
La sirena (The Mermaid), DLR VII:2 [3:37]
Dans le bois (In the Forest), DLR III:11 [1:48] *
Marcha Real (Royal March), DLR III:22 [3:26] *
Soldados de carton (Cardboard Soldiers), DLR III:21 [2:47]
Elvira, DLR III:2 [3:52] *
Album of Memories (22), Paris, 1888, DLR III:1 [43:28]

Douglas Riva, piano
Recorded St. Martin's Church,
East Woodhay, Hampshire, August 2002
Naxos 8.557142 [70:00]
World Premiere Recordings *

With Volume 8 of his important series of the complete piano music
of Enrique Granados, Douglas Riva offers early Granados having little
resemblance to the composer's more inspired and mature works for piano.
Lacking are an effective use of Spanish rhythms and flourishes, compelling
thematic development, and the intensity of exuberance and melancholy so
prevalent in the best Granados piano works such as Goyescas and the
Spanish Dances.

Yet, this 8th Volume cannot easily be dismissed.  The music may be
formative and rather generic, but it gives us the opportunity to hear
and understand the building-blocks that Granados used to advance his
craft.  Also, even his earliest pieces often possess fine melodies and
the ability to captivate the listener.

Most of the captivating music resides in the first eight pieces on
the program, five of them being first recordings.  "Carezza-Vals" is
a deliciously elegant and buoyant waltz, although the musical material
is slim for a 6 1/2 minute duration.  The gem of the program is the
slow-paced "Dolora" where Granados conveys intense sadness within a
cocoon of gorgeous melodic lines, definitely one of his most rewarding
piano miniatures with a perfect symmetry among the grief-stricken voices.
High exuberance from a halting and syncopated rhythmic pattern then comes
from "Clotilde" which represents the best of salon-type music.  "La
sirena" is a lilting waltz of graceful proportions that makes one want
to grab a partner and dance the night away.

We owe the premiere recording of "Dans le bois" to its inclusion in a
letter Granados wrote to the composer Amadeu Vives in June, 1888; the
piece is distinctive for an early Granados composition through its rather
dark and pensive mood painting.  "Marcha Real" is a harmonization of the
Spanish National Anthem and recalls Schumann's many march-like piano
miniatures.  Sharply-etched rhythms and bold accenting inform "Soldados
de carton" which evokes a sinister and demonstrative personality.  Next
is "Elvira" with its irresistible and exuberant dance rhythms.  Overall,
these first eight pieces are very enjoyable with "Dolora" being an
especially compelling miniature.

I wish I could be equally enthusiastic concerning the 43 minute "Album
of Melodies", but these 22 pieces of music are significantly inferior
to the previous works on the program.  This music consists of student
efforts and sketches from the workshop that become tedious when listening
to the whole cycle.  The melodies are entirely forgettable and generally
involve minimal thematic development.  The sole exception is the five
minute Allegro vivace that closes the work and possesses some trace of
personality and seriousness of purpose; the other pieces are either
innocuous or merely pleasant.

Through it all, Douglas Riva does his best to bring this early Granados
music to life.  Riva's series has been a model of extensive research,
idiomatic interpretation, and superb recorded sound.  In preparation for
the project, Riva collaborated with the legendary Spanish pianist Alicia
de Larrocha to complete the critical edition of the Complete Works for
Piano of Granados.  His performances tend to be of a more serious nature
than de Larrocha's, but I have been thoroughly enchanted by his recordings.

Don's Conclusions: The Riva series is essential for anyone interested
in Spanish piano music.  Those who have collected the previous volumes
need no prodding from this reviewer to acquire Volume 8 as well.  However,
those new to Granados are advised to begin with one of the earlier volumes
that contains his more inspired compositions.  The primary value of
Volume 8 is as part of the overall series; on its own, the disc has
limited appeal.

Don Satz
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