FALLA: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Albert Moraleda/ Daniel Ligorio) (Naxos: 8.555066)
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Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
The Complete Piano Works 2
This is Volume two of the first recording of Falla's complete piano music, including juvenilia and all his piano transcriptions of his own orchestral works, as well as pieces written expressly for the instrument. The early works are fascinating - some of them show great potential and are clearly the work of an exceptional student, although they are written very much in a Romantic vein which he would later abandon. Existing published versions of Falla's transcriptions of the suites from his world-famous stage works El sombrero de tres picos, La vida breve and El amor brujo at times seem to drift rather too far from the originals, and so for this recording I have consulted the composer's sketches (in which the writing is often almost unplayable for a solo piano) and thus achieved an effect closer to that of the orchestral version.
The earliest works in this collection date from the turn of the twentieth century: Canción, Vals-Capricho, (first performed at the Madrid Athenaeum), Cortejo de los gnomos and Mazurca, were all written between 1899 and 1902, when Falla was in his twenties and studying at the Madrid Conservatory, where he was taught composition by Felipe Pedrell.
1913 saw the première of the lyric drama La vida breve, two of the dances from which Falla later transcribed for piano. The first and best-known of these is a captivating, highly rhythmical piece, with contrasts of great emotional impact in its central section, while the second, recorded here for the first time, is more light-hearted and employs simpler techniques when it comes to structural development. Falla's original sketches of both dances have been carefully studied as part of the preparation for this recording, in order to convey the original orchestral sounds and colours as faithfully as possible.
In 1919 Diaghilev's Ballets russes gave the first performance of El sombrero de tres picos at London 's Alhambra Theatre, with sets and costumes by Picasso. Falla's piano suite includes five dances: Danza de la molinera, Danza de los vecinos, Danza del molinero, Danza del corregidor and the " Jota ", and is recorded here in full for the first time.
A year later, Arthur Rubinstein gave the première of the Fantasía bética in London, having commissioned the work himself from Falla, aware that his friend was experiencing some financial difficulties (the composer also dedicated it to the pianist). This is without doubt Falla's greatest masterpiece for piano, and indeed one of the great piano works of the twentieth century, blending as it does virtuosity, rhythmic variety, folk themes and Andalusian cante jondo in an idiom at times orchestral, at others much more intimate. The Fantasía is a showpiece of all the skills Falla had learned as a composer of piano music over the previous two decades.
Canción de los remeros del Volga (1922) is a one-off piece commissioned by Falla's friend Ricardo Baeza, a diplomat, in tribute to the refugees from the Russian Revolution.
English version: Susannah Howe