Granados: Goyescas; Intermezzo from Goyescas

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Granados
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Goyescas; Intermezzo from Goyescas
PERFORMER: Albert Guinovart (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMI 987017
Goyescas can be an ungrateful work to listen to. The lightness and charm which make Granados’s Spanish Dances – his other well-known piano work – so pleasurable are here suffocated under a crushing abundance of notes. Like Albéniz in his Iberia, Granados sometimes overwhelms relatively simple melodies with a dizzying complexity of clusters and runs. Less might well have been more.

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Albert Guinovart’s approach assumes that this is great music and must be played in the grand manner: he is extravagant, lavish, every bit the piano virtuoso. No expense – in terms of pianistic effect – is spared. One can imagine him performing amid a swirl of dry ice with a laser show. In the process, he loses much of what could make Goyescas attractive and emphasises what makes it unbearable: the prolixity, the obscurity of purpose, the majestic desultoriness.

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Alicia de Larrocha’s 1977 recording, while lacking nothing in power or conviction, was less anxious to persuade the listener how important the music was, and was all the better for it. Where Guinovart in the famous ‘La maja y el ruiseñor’ produces an exaggerated display of emotion, de Larrocha is straightforward, understated, heartfelt and moving. Where Guinovart moons and meanders in ‘El amor y la muerte’, de Larrocha is direct and effective. For those in search of a spectacle, Guinovart might fill the bill. But for sensitivity and simplicity, one would have to look elsewhere. Christopher Wood