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Friday, March 17, 2017

Federico Mompou - Piano Music (Stephen Hough)


Composer: Federico Mompou
  • (01) Canción y Danza 7
  • (02) Prélude 1
  • (03-07) Cants Mágics
  • (08) Canción y Danza 5
  • (09) Prélude 5
  • (10-15) Charmes
  • (16) Canción y Danza 8
  • (17) Prélude 7 'Palmier d'étoiles'
  • (18-21) Trois Variations
  • (22) Canción y Danza 3
  • (23) Prélude 9
  • (24) Dialogues I: Plaintif
  • (25) Dialogues II: Modéré
  • (26) Canción y Danza 1
  • (27) Prélude 10
  • (28-30) Paisajes
  • (31) Canción y Danza 9
  • (32) Prélude 6

Stephen Hough, piano
Date: 1997
Label: Hyperion




“Une grande innocence”, says Arkel of Melisande. The same quality could be said to invest the music of Federico Mompou. At first it may appear to consist of little more than charming, delicately scented but dilettantish salon near-improvisations with no development, almost no counterpoint and with marked overtones of Erik Satie (though without his faux-naif mockery – Mompou is fundamentally uncynical, with the candour of childhood but an adult depth of emotion); but it is significant that his earliest works (in the 1920s) are imbued – beyond their mere titles (Magic chants and Charms) – with a sense of mystery and wonder. Later he was to progress from an ingenuous lyricism (in the Songs and dances – if we may avoid the confusing mixture of Catalan and Spanish titles, the result of intervention by the publishers) to a profounder contemplation and mysticism, to greater harmonic and keyboard complexity (Dialogues) and finally, in the 1946-60 Paisajes (“Landscapes”), to a more experimental, less tonal idiom that increasingly approaches St John of the Cross’s ideal of “the music of silence”.

In the hands of an imaginative pianist like Stephen Hough this other-worldly, almost eremitic quality becomes revelatory in the Scriabinesque Prelude No. 9, the Debussian “The lake” (No. 2 of the Landscapes) and, particularly, the starkness of “Galician carts” (No. 3 of the same set). Hough’s command of tonal nuance throughout is ultra-sensitive, he catches Mompou’s wistful moods to perfection, and on the rare occasions when the music lashes out, as in Prelude No. 7, he is scintillating. In the more familiar Songs and dances he is tender in the (mostly melancholy) songs and suitably intense in No. 5, and exhilaratingly crisp rhythmically in the dances – the sardana of No. 3 positively bounces with joy. He treats the “Testament d’Amelia” in No. 8 with a good deal of flexibility, and because Mompou declared (and demonstrated in his own recordings) that “it’s all so free”, he takes the fullest advantage of the marking senza rigore in No. 5, which reflects Mompou’s lifelong fascination with bell-sounds.

-- Lionel SalterGramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


Frederic Mompou (16 April 1893 – 30 June 1987) was a Catalan composer and pianist. He is remembered for his solo piano music and, to a degree, his songs. Mompou studied piano under Pedro Serra at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu and with Isidor Philipp at the Conservatoire de Paris. Mompou is best known as a miniaturist, writing short, relatively improvisatory music, often described as delicate or intimate. His principal influences were French impressionism, Erik Satie and Gabriel Fauré. He was also influenced by the sounds of Catalan culture.


Stephen Hough (born 22 November 1961) is a British-born classical pianist, composer and writer. He became an Australian citizen in 2005 and has dual nationality. He has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras, as recitalist on the major stages, and as chamber musician with top musicians. He is also known for his various dazzling recordings of encore pieces and for championing lesser-known composers His recordings (more than 50) received multiple awards. As a writer, he has a blog at the Telegraph newspaper's website.


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