Tuesday, 21 August 2012

"Nothing is missing and nothing is superfluous"

Federico Mompou (1893-1987)

In the 1920s, the Spanish composer Mompou was part of a group of artists, writers, and musicians called Noucentistes ("Twentieth-centurists") whose aesthetic aim was a return to clarity and simplicity. Inspired more by the French impressionists than by the modernism of Stravinsky or Hindemith, Mompou declared, "My only desire is to write works in which nothing is missing and nothing is superfluous."

Much of Mompou's set of Cançons i Danses for piano draws on Catalan folk themes, but this one, No. 6 -- my favorite  -- is entirely original. You can go to YouTube and hear the song section played by the legendary pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, but the dance is omitted. You can hear the complete No. 6, song and dance, played by the composer himself, but Mompou's aging fingers were regrettably past the dancing stage when he recorded it. (It's no disrespect to Mompou to say that someday I'd love to hear this music in the hands of a great jazz pianist/improviser -- a Rossano Sportiello, for example.)

As usual when it comes to Spanish piano music, Alicia de Larrocha's recording is definitive, the song section memorably lyrical, the dance rhythms beautifully articulated.


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