Songs and Dances from Spain

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Albéniz/Cassadó/Falla/Granados/Ravel/Sarasate/Shchedrin
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Songs and Dances from Spain
WORKS: Works by Albéniz, Cassadó, Falla, Granados, Ravel, Sarasate, Shchedrin
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello), Lily Maisky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 8100

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There’s much to savour in Mischa Maisky and his daughter Lily’s vivid menu of Spanish miniatures, from Falla’s popular Suite espagnole to Ravel’s Pièce en forme de habanera (Maisky’s own arrangement). After a pungent start to Falla’s Suite, Lily Maisky establishes her credentials as an exceptional pianist in the meditative ‘Asturiana’, where her pearl-like tone borders on the edge of silence. She finds that luminous stillness again in Nana, an ideal foil to Maisky’s highly textured, muted timbre. That sense of being lost in time is also evoked in Ravel’s simmering Habanera, and in an encore of Pablo Casals’s El cant dels ocells, played so slowly the line is almost lost, but its sense of mystic vastness lingers on.

The more mournful the melody, the better Maisky performs, finding its secret undertow: Jacqueline du Pré’s joyous rendition of Falla’s Suite and, more recently, Alisa Weilerstein (both EMI), are more dazzling. Granados’s Andaluza lacks rhythmic drive, despite Lily’s best efforts, and there are moments when one is reminded that most of these pieces were written for the nimbler violin – such as Sarasate’s Playera, which doesn’t take flight, and Albéniz’s Tango, here stately rather than smouldering. Where the great, Barcelona-born cellist, Gaspar Cassadó, had a gloriously fine-spun sound when he performed his Requiebros, Maisky’s is rather overladen with vibrato and a heavier bowstroke. Still, there are delicious tracks, including a wild rendition of Falla’s Danza ritual del fuego.

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Helen Wallace