WORKS: Iberia, Book 3; Barcarola; España; Angustia; Rapsodia cubana; Pavana muy fácil para manos pequeñas; Zambra granadina
PERFORMER: Miguel Baselga (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1143
Certain critical pieties will never be dislodged, and one of the most firmly entrenched is that for Spanish music, and especially Granados and Albéniz, there is none to match Alicia de Larrocha. Yet the music of Albéniz is a good deal more punchy and extravagant than the comparatively sedate Granados, and Larrocha has always seemed to drain the juice from it. Sure, she’s elegant and precise, but what’s the point of Albéniz’s flamboyant gestures if they’re not flaunted, or his luscious keyboard textures fully savoured? To understand what I mean, compare the third book of Iberia on Miguel Baselga’s new recording with Larrocha’s made for Decca in 1972. In the second piece, ‘El polo’, there’s a three-note motif which recurs as a punctuation mark, a little cul-de-sac, which Albéniz marks ‘élargir’; Larrocha simply relaxes the pulse, whereas Baselga makes the motif bigger altogether, as if he’s expanding his chest and opening his eyes wide. This isn’t the only time he finds extra meaning – he also dramatises the ‘hiccups’ in ‘Lavapies’ beautifully, like a dancer twitching his hips on those high-flung chords. In short, Baselga’s playing is fully acted-out and excitingly physical. The very vivid, close recording helps, though it makes the quietest passages seem too loud. Nor do I like the hard piano sound or the studio reverberation, which sounds artificial, like a halo sanctifying a figure in a painting. Still, the playing is gripping, and it’s good to have all six wonderful pieces in España, not just the famous Tango.