Supported by generous help from the Turnovsky Endowment Trust

Two centuries of Spanish keyboard music

By , 02/06/2022

Wellington Chamber Music presents:
Lorelle McNaughton (piano)
PIANO MUSIC FROM SPAIN

St.Andrew’s-on-The-Terrace

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Solo piano concerts are rare these days, apart from the occasional lunch time recitals, and Wellington Chamber Music should be complimented on featuring this concert. Lorelle McNaughton studied in Spain with  renowned Spanish pianists and is something of a specialist in performing Spanish music. She has toured Australia and New Zealand with a programme of Spanish piano works and this concert is part of a nationwide tour taking her to many centres right through the country. She played a broad range of Spanish keyboard music from Padre Soler’s two sonatas written in the mid-1700s to Mompou’s little dance of 1941

Padre Soler (1729-1783)

Sonata in D minor R24

Sonata in D-flat R88

Although Soler composed works of many different genre, concertos, pieces for organ, for string, for choirs, he is now mainly remembered for his around 150 keyboard sonatas. They were probably influenced by Scarlatti, who was a generation older, but Soler’s sonatas are more varied in form, and some longer. Playing music written for harpsichord presents special problems for a pianist. Harpsichords are more even in tone, there are no crescendos, no sustained notes, so the phrasing has to stand for these qualities. McNaughton’s meticulous attention paid to the notes made for a clarity that served the music well.

Enrique Granados (1867-1916)

21 Danzas españas Op. 37

          i.”Galante”

          ii.“Rondella aragonesa”

Next came the music of Granados, whose “Andaluza” Spanish Dance No. 5 from this set is widely known, McNaughton, to her credit, instead letting us enjoy two of the lesser-known dances, each of which capture the strong rhythmic character of Spanish music. They have lovely lyrical interludes, but also call for fiery temperamental reading to reflect the abandon of the dance. ‘Galante’ is a type of Bolero dance, gallant and flirtatious, ‘Rondella aragonesa’, is an Aragonese folk dance with wild beat, interspersed by a song-like lyrical passage.

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

Book III of Iberia (1907)

  1. El Albaicin

       ii El polo

       iii. Lavapiés

Iberia is one of the masterpieces of the impressionist piano repertoire. It is one of the most challenging works for the piano. This was the first of two groups of pieces performed by McNaughton from the work, each of these three pieces evoking a Spanish city, its festival or song and dance. ‘El Albaicin’ is the name of a gypsy quarter in Granada, known for its singing, flamenco dancing and virtuoso skills on the guitar, tambourine and castanet, realised here by McNaughton with suitable vigour, colour and atmosphere. ‘El polo’ is a sorrowful, melancholic Andalusian song and dance, the pianist bringing a darker, more inward and sombre character overall to the music. Lavapiés is the  boisterous music of an inn in a popular district of Madrid.

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Cuatro Piezas Españolas (1909)

  1. “Aragonesa”
  2. “Cubana”
  3. “Montañesa”
  4. “Andaluza”

Falla said that he was trying to express through music the soul and atmosphere of each of these regions of Spain drawing on popular songs and rhythms. ‘Aragonesa’ is in the style of jota, here launched confidently and expansively by McNaughton, ‘Cubana’ here was at first silkier, more suggestive and then playful under McNaughton’s fingers, in the guajiro and zapateado dances,  ‘Montañesa’ quotes from Asturian and Mountain songs, and ‘Andaluza’ uses aspects of popular flamenco forms. Underlying all this could be heard a suggestion of subtle guitar music.

Frederico Mompou (1893-1987)

Canciones y Danzas No. 1 (1921) and No. 6 (1941)

Mompou is best known a a miniaturist, writing short, delicate improvisatory music. He uses traditional Catalan melodies and other Spanish music. These two pieces seemed in McNaughton’s hands like gentle, captivating salon music, spontaneous, straight from the heart.

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

Book IV of Iberia

  1. Malaga
  2. Jerez
  3. Eritaña

Like Book III these pieces capture the music of traditional regional Spanish dances. Malaga evokes the style of  malageña (though McNaughton doesn’t have quite the fluency and suppleness of Alicia de Larrocha, here, she negotiates the terrain steadily and purposefully) Jerez is in the style of a melancholic introspective gypsy dance (a beautiful, lovingly-nuanced reading, here), and Eritaña comes from the name of a popular inn on the outskirts of Seville, noted for its colorful flamenco performances.

It was an afternoon of colorful, and technically challenging music. Lorella McNaughton took her audience on a tour of Spanish piano music, from the mid eighteenth to the mid twentieth   century. Her restrained performance, with meticulous attention to the notes, made this an interesting, enjoyable concert.

 

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