Reflections: Mompou: Paisajes; Charmes; Ravel: Miroirs, Sonatine; Brocal: Nature Morte

Julien Brocal (Rubicon)

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CD_RCD1008_Mompou_cmyk

Reflections Mompou: Paisajes; Charmes; Ravel: Miroirs, Sonatine; Brocal: Nature Morte
Julien Brocal (piano)
Rubicon RCD1008 71:25 mins

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There can be no doubt, as indicated by Julien Brocal’s winning of the ‘Newcomer’ prize at this year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards, that here we have a pianist of exceptional talents. His fingers are up to anything, ‘Alborada del gracioso’ included, and he has an unusually acute perception of the right balance of a chord, depending on its place in the discourse – whether it’s a neutral sound or one that impels the music forward. Ravel may not have been the world’s greatest pianist, but we’re told that in ‘La vallée des cloches’ he had an uncanny knack of giving each bell a different sonority – as Brocal does here; and he phrases the tune with exquisite sensitivity.

But Brocal is only 30, and there’s still scope for him to learn, notably to pay more attention to composers’ markings. Why, at the end of the ‘Minuet’ in Ravel’s Sonatine, ignore his ‘ralentissez beaucoup’? And the build-up to the final climax of ‘Alborada’ is awash with sudden changes of dynamic that really must be observed. Pairing Ravel with Mompou does the latter no favours, given that his pieces have little to offer other than atmospheres which Ravel conjures up more eloquently, and which contain greater substance to boot. But this disc, beautifully recorded, does give us hope that, with closer attention to the text, Brocal may blossom into one of the most interesting and attractive pianists around.

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Roger Nichols