Tuesday 3 February 2015

Granados - Danzas Espanolas

Granados Danzas Espanolas - Maite Aguirre Granados Danzas Espanolas; Maite Aguirre;
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 27 2015
Star rating: 4.0

Clarity and rhythmic subtlety in Granados disc from young Spanish pianist

The composer and pianist Enrique Granados (1867 - 1916) is best known for a handful of pieces though despite his early death, his catalogue runs to quit a considerable number of works. His Danzas Espanolas were written in 1890, after his return to Barcelona following his studies in Paris. On this new disc the young Spanish pianist Maite Aguirre has recorded the complete suite of 12 dances, issued on her own label.

The name which hangs over these dances when considering recordings is that of the great Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, she was a pupil of Frank Marshall who was the director of the school in Barcelona which Granados had run. An inheritor of a tradition of playing Granados's music, Larrocha is supremely authoritative here. But that should not prevent others from seeking to shed their own light on a major work.

Granados's Danzas Espanolas is divided into four book of three pieces each. They are full of subtle rhythms and flavours, and a world away from the highly coloured exoticism of much so-called Spanish inspired music. Instead we are presented with a world of strong, sophisticated rhythms and evocative melodies requiring a subtlety of rubato and highly developed sense to bring the music off.

Maite Aguirre is a young Spanish pianist and conductor based in London (I first came across her work as chorus master of Grange Park Opera).

The disc opens with a nice swagger, with Galante in which Aguirre is nicely poetic in the gentler sections but always with a lovely sense of rhythmic pointing. Granados's pieces here are generally a variant of ternary (ABA) form, with the middle section providing some sort of contrast in speed, dynamic or general feel. Oriental starts with a lovely hypnotic melody, though Aguirre counterpoints it with some finely rhythmic figures whilst keeping the intimate atmosphere. Fandango is postively toe-tapping. She does not take it too fast, all the energy is in the way she attacks and varies the notes.

Villanesca is again catchy but here Granados gives the player plenty of hand crossing as bell like motifs, both high and low, surround the melody. Andaluza is the most familiar piece, and Aguirre keeps the tune discreetly rhythmic with highly coloured accompaniment. Rondalla Aragonesa starts off elegantly but builds in speed and rhythm until we get cascades of notes. As with many of the pieces, Granados contrasts this with a more lyrical middle.

Valenciana is a fabulous tune, much played by Granados. Aguirre plays Laroccha's version, based on oral tradition, and Aguirre combines rhythmic vitality with a lovely flexibility of tempo. Sardana is gentle but with a rich texture which grows, and Aguirre still gives the piece a nice impetus. There is a lot happening here, combined with subtlety and rubato by Aguirre. Romantica is galant and elegant, but still with a good swagger to the rhythm, and Granados creates one of the longer and more complex movements here.

Melancolia has some brilliant fingerwork, and there are some interesting jazz-rhythm hints in the underlying running figures. Arabesca  is an interplay of richly rhythmic figures, whilst the closing piece, Bolero returns to the swagger of the opening piece.

The music here is full of subtlety in attack, colour and rubato, in the fingertips themselves, rather than showing off with bravura virtuosity. Aguirre often takes a gentler approach to Larrocha, and though Larrocha's overall timing is a little less than Aguirre's, this disguises the fact that the two have different ways with varying the rubato and rhythm. I would always want to come back to Larrocha but I enjoyed the performances from Aguirre, especially the clarity of texture, line and rhythm which she brings to the work.

The disc is available direct from Maite Aguirre's website.

Enrique Granados (1867 - 1916) - Danzas Espanolas (1890) [57.19]
Maite Aguirre (piano)
Recorded November 2014 at www.pianorecording.co.uk on a Bosendorfer Imperial Phoenix 40963-510
MAQCD121401 1CD [57.19]

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