Lilit Grigoryan (piano)
Orchid Classics ORC100178 71:59 mins
Can you hear the silence? The title of Mompou’s piano cycle Música callada, literally ‘silent music’, may appear to be self-contradictory, but it points to the work’s inspiration in lines from St John of the Cross’s Spiritual Canticle. Individually, the resulting 28 pieces are unassuming abstract miniatures. Collectively, though, the cycle’s four books, published between 1959 and 1967, are full of tangible, yet elusive meaning. With a child-like directness and simplicity of expression, the harmonic heritage stems from Debussy, but the spirit is often more reminiscent of Satie or Janáček in reflective mood.
The absence of anything the least bit showy means that any performance of Música callada will be a labour of love, and Lilit Grigoryan’s new recording is no exception. She has the underlying stillness essential to this music while reflecting the shifting moods, whether moments of insouciance as in ‘Placide’ (No. 3) or the soulfulness of the numerous bells textures and hanging resonances. Undermining these tremendous virtues are various mis-readings, not least the wrong rhythm throughout No. 15. The recording captures Grigoryan’s beautifully rounded tone, notably in the penultimate Lento molto, though a little more distance helps to evoke Mompou’s characterisation of this music as ‘a weak heartbeat’.