Granados: Piezas sobre cantos populares españoles; Three Impromptus; El jardí d’Elisenda

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COMPOSERS: Granados
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piezas sobre cantos populares españoles; Three Impromptus; El jardí d’Elisenda
PERFORMER: Douglas Riva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555723
Most pianists, even specialists, focus on a fraction of Enrique Granados’s substantial output. Here is Douglas Riva, up to Vol. 6 of his survey, reaching repertoire where comparisons with the artistry of, say, Alicia de Larrocha are beside the point. The disc confirms that, far from being isolated peaks, the works that everybody else plays, the Goyescas suite and the Spanish Dances, are actually rather representative. Granados put Spanish music into an international circuit by composing as a cultivated European who could integrate local elements – the keyword being integrate, since travel-brochure ‘colour’ has no place in his essentially mainstream, post-Chopin art.

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So the Seven Pieces on Folksongs, which occupy nearly half this CD, embed their melodies in subtle syntheses of modal and tonal harmonies, or separate them entirely into unaccompanied statements. Standard rhythmic or chordal gestures are the springboard for wide-ranging keyboard poems. In the Three Impromptus, the fantasy and energy of the music become largely free of specifically Spanish elements, but even the dance-based ‘Sardana’ gives its characteristic rhythm a makeover. Three pieces, all just over a minute long, receive their first recordings.

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Riva is stretched by the occasional flourish, but his unfussy feeling for an intimate idiom generally convinces. Robert Maycock