COMPOSERS: Albeniz; Falla
WORKS: Iberia; Navarra, ,Piezas españolas; Fantasía bética
PERFORMER: Alicia de Larrocha (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 433 926-2 ADD Reissue (1973-75)
Larrocha has cornered the market in this repertoire to the point where other pianists (and perhaps more significantly, major record companies) seem to have let her have the field virtually to herself. This is a pity. Apart from anything else, it’s time this music were accorded its due, not sidelined as romantic exotica, however magnificent. ‘Yes,’ say some, ‘she’s great in this kind of thing, but what’s she like in real music?’ She’s the same: sometimes wonderful, sometimes not. This is real music, and the truth is that she’s actually just as erratic here as in anything else. And besides, no interpretation can or should be taken as gospel. We need diversity of viewpoint, or art stagnates. Guillermo González is hardly a household name but his playing here, in my view, is a match for Larrocha’s all the way, and often superior in subtlety of inflection and curvaceousness of rhythm. He may lack Larrocha’s charismatic musical personality, but if the result is to put the focus entirely on the music, who’s to complain? His tone is wide-ranging but never disagreeable, his characterisation is both varied and vivid (though lacking Larrocha’s sometimes electrifying ferocity), and he presents an alternative view of the music which need yield to none in its validity and persuasiveness. And at the price, this isn’t just a bargain, it’s a steal. In recorded sound and breadth of temperament, Larrocha’s later, digital recording, also on Decca, may still win on points, but I call this one a draw.