Montsalvatge

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COMPOSERS: Montsalvatge
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Sonatina for Yvette; Three Works for the Left Hand; Four Dialogues; Three Divertimenti; Noah’s Ark; Elegy to Maurice Ravel
PERFORMER: Benita Meshulam (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1022
The Catalan Xavier Montsalvatge (born 1912) is whatever you want him to be: composer, critic, teacher, wit, habanera scholar – a melodic chameleon as enchanted with music hall and dance as delighted by Poulenc or taken with Stravinsky. An eclectic modernist, says Benita Meshulam, ‘making music that displays wry humour, darkness and even quirkiness underneath innocent, apparently simple’ tunes.

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Epitaph and epithalamium, songs and tributes, and playgrounds are the themes of this disc. Spanning more than half a century (up to last year), here are memorials to Ricardo Viñes, Artur Rubinstein, Falla, Ravel, Turina, Esplá; a wedding gift for Alicia de Larrocha (1949); a sonatina for his daughter, Yvette (1960), climaxing in ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’; a 90th birthday left-hand greeting to Mompou (1983); a Noah’s Ark – seven ‘pianistic evocations for the young’ (1990); and, of course, the irresistible Divertimenti of 1941, with their gently abrasive mix of early Shostakovich-style wrong-note schottische, seductively languid Americana, and coquettish vals-jota. Meshulam is a characterful player, whose rhythmic élan, balancing of glassier and denser sonorities, and scherzando cadencing comes with the composer’s admiring endorsement. But her New York producer/engineer has placed her Hamburg Steinway in somewhat wet, empty-hall acoustics; and not all the editing is ideally managed. Ates Orga