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MOMPOU: 12 Preludes / Suburbis / Cants magics

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Frederic Mompou(1893-1987)

Piano Music Volume 2

Preludes; Suburbis;Dialogues; Cants m?ágics; Chanson de berceau

F?¬tes lointaines

It is not easy to explain the long period of extremely sparseproductivity that followed only two years after Mompou's triumphant acclaim inParis. The composer, who from his first recognised work, Impresionesintimas, (1911-1914), had composed at least one important work for thepiano every year, saw his great moment arrive when his teacher, FerdinandMotte-?¡Lacroix, played sc?¿nes d'enfants and other works in the SalleErard on 15th April 1921. That success was endorsed exactly one week later inthe well-known article by the prestigious critic, Emile Vuillermoz, whoproclaimed Mompou as the only true successor to Debussy. However, from 1923 therate of appearance of new works fell considerably and, in the words of ClaraJanes, the 1930s were a 'wasteland'.

Among the most notable of Mompou's works written in the middle of the1920s are the first six Preludes, the beginning of a set which grewirregularly in number over a period of more than thirty years, eventually to becompleted with a further six. The use of the title Prelude suggests thatin creating his ideal sound world Mompou was influenced by Debussy and Chopin,whose 24 Preludes was to serve as a theme for Mompou's Variations, oneof his most ambitious works.

The first four Preludes were composed between 1927 and 1928.

After the more concentrated character of the first (Dans le styleramance), the second is a succession of kaleidoscopic scenes and situationswithout actually telling us what is being described. The distant return of theinitial melody at the end of the piece is reminiscent of Debussy's Preludes.

The third Prelude develops melodic fragments of a simple melancholywhile the fourth and last of this first set has something of the archaicharmonics and popular themes of Can?ºons i danses.

In 1930 Mompou composed two more Preludes, the fifth, also closein form and style to Can?ºons i danses, and the sixth for the lefthand. The composer himself affirmed that the basic material of the compositionwas suggested to him as he played casually on the piano while talking to theCatalan guitarist Miquel Llobet Much later, in 1931, the seventh was composed,the only one which carries a descriptive title: Palmier d'etoiles (literally,palm tree of stars, one of the most spectacular kinds of firework). These feuxd'artifice are seen as clearly as those in Debussy's own Preludes yetthey possess a charm of their own and evoke the magic which fireworks have forthose born on Spain's eastern coast. The eighth and ninth Preludes werewritten in 1943 and the tenth in 1944.

For the publication of the second book in 1952, however, the presentorder was chosen. No. 8 extracts the composer's usual sonorities fromthe development of a simple cell of two notes. The following Prelude showsthe influence of both Chopin and Scriabin. The tenth, from 1944, starts withenergetic chords leading to a quieter, more singing conclusion. Two more unpublishedPreludes complete the set; the first, dated 1952, is melancholic, and isdedicated to the great pianist Alicia de Larrocha. Like so many other pieces bythe composer, the last Prelude, thought to have been composed in 1960,develop, its melody by means of ever-so-slightly changing repetitions, beforethe return of the initial statement in an atmosphere of contained pain.

Mompou gave the title Suburbis (slum quarters) to four piecescomposed between 1916 and 1917. El carrer, el guitarrista i el veil cavall (Thestreet, the guitarist and the old horse) describes the images which surroundedMompou during his long walks through the working class areas of Barcelona, sobeloved to him and so frequently evoked with his gift of 'magic realism'. Thewaltz of the guitarist begins to emerge from the din of the street and thesongs of the children's games and, later, the painful walk (peniblement)of the old horse, slowly going its way before the sympathetic gaze of theobserver. Las gitanas (Gypsies) 1 and 2 conjure up theadventurous nocturnal walks of Mompou and his friends through the poorest areasof the city of his youth, the shanty quarters inhabited by a marginalpopulation which fascinated the musician. To the attraction of the beauty ofthe young gypsy girls (as recalled in Chatunca) is added the evocationof unconventional ways of life, including the exotic. La cegueta (TheLittle Blind Girl) presents a single melody, as the young sightless girladvances with difficulty (peniblement, like the old horse). This melodyis later invested with delicate and sonorous chords, as if transfigured. L'homede l'aristo (The Barrel Organ Man) presents several melodies, among them ahabanera with which the barrel organ creates a sweeter ambiance in contrast tothe earlier din of the street. The idealised image of the itinerant musician,however, is invested with realism: the pianist must play the melodies withgroans and out of tune (gemissant et desaccorde).

Although in his letters and writings Mompou shows a certain disdain forthe figure of Satie, there can hardly be any doubt about the influence thelatter had on Mompou's music. In the two Dialogues of 1923 (' isoneself who asks the questions and gives the answers...' said Mompou inexplaining the parties to the dialogue) the pianist finds indications,some quite caustic, A la Satie. The course of the Dialague isdefined by expressious such as expliquez, questionnez, repondez, hesitez,exaltez-vous and even donnez des excuses. This aspect of the score(including the lack of bar lines, so frequent in Mompou) is therefore not farremoved from Satie's own Pi?¿ces froides.

Cants m?ágics ('Magic Songs') is Mompou's first published work. Theyevoke a poetic idea essential to Mompou: the mystery of nature, which can beconjured up by music of an imaginary ritual. The first is almost entirely basedon one chord, whose repetition in monotonous rhythms has a hypnotic effect. Thesecond presents a simple melody which is interpreted in several different ways,following the indications obscur, clar, brilliant (dark, light,brilliant). The third Cant, repeats a single melody, one of whosevariants (marked as sota el pes de la son (under the weight of sleep) isfaintly reminiscent of Br??nnhilde's dream in Die Walk??re. The followingpiece, Misterioso (Mysteriously) alternates the initial phrase with alivelier passage interrupted occasionally by the doleful ring of distant bells.

The two alternating sections in the last of the Cants m?ágics are marked Calmae inquiet (Calm and restless). The simple melodies are supported by chordsin a deliberately repetitive rhythm which sustain the hypnotic magic of thesepieces.

Mompou's friendship with the family of the poet Josep Janes bore itsmost important musical fruit in the cycle of songs for voice and piano Combatdel somni (1942-1951), based on poems by Janes. The Chanson de berccau ('CradleSong') was composed in 1951 for the baptism of Elisenda, one of Janes'sdaughters. In keeping with the genre, the opening melody sustains a rockingmotion. The central section avec tendrezse (with tenderness) takes thecharacter of a popular song in the manner of the
Item number 8554448
Barcode 636943444825
Release date 01/01/2000
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Maso, Jordi
Maso, Jordi
Composers Mompou, Federico
Mompou, Federico
Disc: 1
Fetes lointaines
1 Prelude No. 1
2 Prelude No. 2
3 Prelude No. 3
4 Prelude No. 4
5 Prelude No. 5
6 Prelude No. 6, 'Pour la main gauche'
7 Prelude No. 7, 'Palmier d' etoiles'
8 Prelude No. 8
9 Prelude No. 9
10 Prelude No. 10
11 Prelude No. 11
12 Prelude No. 12
13 El carrer, el guitarrista i el vell cavall
14 Gitanes I
15 Gitanes II
16 La cegueta
17 L' home de l' aristo
18 Dialogue I
19 Dialogue II
20 Energic
21 Obscur
22 Profound - lent
23 Misterios
24 Calma
25 Chanson de berceau
26 I Calme
27 II Vif
28 III Rythme
29 IV Vif
30 V Lentement
31 VI Vif
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